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

CHAPTER VIII. Socialist Opportunism

CHAPTER IX. The Decline of the Revolutionary Spirit

CHAPTER X. Working Class Imperialism

CHAPTER XI. The Revolutionary Epoch

APPENDIX: History of This Book

The Zimmerwald Manifesto

Two Declarations on The Zimmerwald Manifesto

An Open Letter to Jules Guesde





The Communist Manifesto written in 1847, closes with the words: “Workingmen of all countries, unite!” But this battle cry came too early to become a living actuality at once. The historical order of the day just then was the middle class revolution of 1848. And in this revolution the part that fell to the authors of the Manifesto themselves was not that of leaders of an international proletariat, but of fighters on the extreme left of the national Democracy.

The revolution of 1848 did not solve a single one of the national problems; it merely revealed them. The counter-revolution, along with the great industrial development that then took place, broke off the thread of the revolutionary movement. Another century of peace went by until recently the antagonisms that had not been removed by the revolution demanded the intervention of the sword. This time it was not the sword of the revolution, fallen from the hands of the middle class, but the militaristic sword of war drawn from a dynastic scabbard. The wars of 1859, 1864, 1866 and 1870 created a new Italy and a new Germany. The feudal caste fulfilled, in their own way, the heritage of the revolution of 1848. The political bankruptcy of the middle class, which expressed itself in this historic interchange of roles, became a direct stimulus to an independent proletarian movement based on the rapid development of capitalism…

In 1863 Lassalle founded the first political labour union in Germany. [36] In 1864 the First International was formed in London under the guidance of Karl Marx. The closing watchword of the Manifesto was taken up and used in the first circular issued by the International Association of Workingmen. It is most characteristic for the tendencies of the modern labour movement that its first organization had an international character. Nevertheless this organization was an anticipation of the future needs of the movement rather than a real steering instrument in the class struggle. There was still a wide gulf between the ultimate goal of the International, the communist revolution, and its immediate activities, which took the form mainly of international cooperation in the chaotic strike movement of the workers in various countries. Even the founders of the International hoped that the revolutionary march of events would very soon overcome the contradiction between ideology and practice. While the General Council was giving money to aid groups of strikers in England and on the Continent, it was at the same time making classic attempts to harmonize the conduct of the workers in all countries in the field of world politics.

But these endeavours did not as yet have a sufficient material foundation. The activity of the First International coincided with that period of wars which opened the way for capitalist development in Europe and North America. In spite of its doctrinal and educational importance, the attempts of the International to mingle in world politics must all the more clearly have shown the advanced workingmen of all countries their impotence as against the national class state. The Paris Commune, flaring up out of the war, was the culmination of the First International. [37] Just as the Communist Manifesto was the theoretical anticipation of the modern labour movement, and the First International was the practical anticipation of the labour associations of the world, so the Paris Commune was the revolutionary anticipation of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But only an anticipation, nothing more. And for that very reason it was clear that it is impossible for the proletariat to overthrow the machinery of state and reconstruct society by nothing but revolutionary improvizations. The national states that emerged from the wars created the one real foundation for this historical work, the national foundation. Therefore, the proletariat must go through the school of self-education.

The First International fulfilled its mission of a nursery for the National Socialist Parties. After the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, the International dragged along a moribund exist encefor a few years more and in 1872 was transplanted to America, to which various religious, social and other experiments had often wandered before, to die there.

Then began the period of prodigious capitalist development, on the foundation of the national state. For the labour movement this was the period of the gradual gathering of strength, of the development of organization, and of political possibilism, or opportunism.

In England the stormy period of Chartism [38], that revolutionary awakening of the English proletariat, had completely exhausted itself ten years before the birth of the First International. The repeal of the Corn Laws (1846) and the subsequent industrial prosperity that made England the workshop of the world, the establishment of the ten-hour working day (1847), the increase of emigration from Ireland to America, and the enfranchisement of the workers in the cities (1867), all these circumstances, which considerably improved the lot of the upper strata of the proletariat, led the class movement in England into the peaceful waters of trade unionism and its supplemental liberal labour policies.

The period of possibilism, that is, of the conscious, systematic adaptation to the economic, legal, and state forms of national capitalism, began for the English proletariat, the oldest of the brothers, even before the birth of the International, and twenty years earlier than for the continental proletariat. If nevertheless the big English unions joined the International at first, it was only because it afforded them protection against the importation of strike breakers in wage disputes. [39]

The French labour movement recovered but slowly from the loss of blood in the Commune, on the soil of a retarded industrial growth, and in a nationalistic atmosphere of the most noxious greed for “revenge”. Wavering between an anarchistic “denial” of the state and a vulgar-democratic capitulation to it, the French proletarian movement developed by adaptation to the social and political framework of the bourgeois republic.

As Marx had already foreseen in 1870, the center of gravity of the Socialist movement shifted to Germany.

After the Franco-Prussian War, unified Germany entered upon an era similar to the one England had passed through in the twenty years previous: an era of capitalist prospenty, of democratic franchise, of a higher standard of living for the upper strata of the proletariat.

Theoretically the German labour movement marched under the banner of Marxism. Still in its dependence on the conditions of the period, Marxism became for the German proletariat not the algebraic formula of the revolution that it was at the beginning, but the theoretic method for adaptation to a national-capitalist state crowned with the “Prussian helmet”. Capitalism, which had achieved a temporary equilibrium, continually revolutionized the economic foundation of national life. To preserve the power that had resulted from the Franco-Prussian War, it was necessary to increase the standing army. The middle class had ceded all its political positions to the feudal monarchy, but had intrenched itself all the more energetically in its economic positions under the protection of the militaristic police state. The main currents of the last period, covering forty-five years, are: victorious capitalism, militarism erected on a capitalist foundation, a political reaction resulting from the intergrowth of feudal and capitalist classes – a revolutionizing of the economic life, and a complete abandonment of revolutionary methods and traditions in political life. The entire activity of the German Social Democracy was directed towards the awakening of the backward workers, through a systematic fight for their most immediate needs – the gathering of strength, the increase of membership, the filling of the treasury, the development of the press, the conquest of all the positions that presented themselves, their utilization and expansion. This was the great historical work of the awakening and educating of the “unhistorical” class.

The great centralized trade unions of Germany developed in direct dependence upon the development of national industry, adapting themselves to its successes in the home and the foreign markets, and controlling the prices of raw materials and manufactured products. Localized in political districts to adapt itself to the election laws and stretching feelers in all cities and rural communities, the Social Democracy built up the unique structure of the political organization of the German proletariat with its many-branched bureaucratic hierarchy, its one million dues-paying members, its four million voters, ninety-one daily papers and sixty-five party printing presses. This whole many-sided activity, of immeasurable historical importance, was permeated through and through with the spirit of possibilism.

In forty-five years history did not offer the German proletariat a single opportunity to remove an obstacle by a stormy attack, or to capture any hostile position in a revolutionary advance. As a result of the mutual relation of social forces, it was constrained to avoid obstacles or adapt itself to them. In this, Marxism as a theory was a valuable tool for political guidance, but it could not change the opportunist character of the class movement, which in essence was at that time alike in England, France and Germany. For all the undisputed superiority of the German organization, the tactics of the unions were very much the same in Berlin and London. Their chief achievement was the system of tariff treaties. In the political field the difference was much greater and deeper. While the English proletariat were marching under the banner of Liberalism, the German workers formed an independent party with a Socialist platform. Yet this difference does not go nearly as deep in politics as it does in ideologic forms and the forms of organization.

Through the pressure that English labour exerted on the Liberal Party it achieved certain limited political victories, the extension of suffrage, freedom to unionize, and social legislation. The same was preserved or improved by the German proletariat through its independent party, which it was obliged to form because of the speedy capitulation of German liberalism. And yet this party, while in principle fighting the battle for political power, was compelled in actual practice to adapt itself to the ruling power, to protect the labour movement against the blows of this power, and to achieve a few reforms. In other words: on account of the difference in historical traditions and political conditions, the English proletariat adapted itself to the capitalist state through the medium of the Liberal Party; while the German proletariat was forced to form a party of its own to achieve the very same political ends. And the political struggle of the German proletariat in this entire period had the same opportunist character limited by historical conditions as did that of the English proletariat.

The similarity of these two phenomena so different in their forms comes out most clearly in the final results at the close of the period. The English proletariat in the struggle to meet its daily issues was forced to form an independent party of its own, without, however, breaking with its liberal traditions; and the party of the German proletariat, when the War forced upon it the necessity of a decisive choice, gave an answer in the spirit of the national-liberal traditions of the English labour party.

Marxism, of course, was not merely something accidental or insignificant in the German labour movement Yet there would be no basis for deducing the social-revolutionary character of the party from its official Marxist ideology.

Ideology is an important, but not a decisive factor in politics. Its role is that of waiting on politics. That deep-seated contradiction, which was inherent in the awakening revolutionary class on account of its relation to the feudal-reactionary state, demanded an irreconcilable ideology which would bring the whole movement under the banner of social revolutionary aims. Since historical conditions forced opportunist tactics, the irreconcilability of the proletarian class found expression in the revolutionary formulas of Marxism. Theoretically, Marxism reconciled with perfect success the contradiction between reform and revolution. Yet the process of historical development is something far more involved than theorizing in the realm of pure thought. The fact that the class which was revolutionary in its tendencies was forced for several decades to adapt itself to the monarchical police state, based on the tremendous capitalist development of the country, in the course of which adaptation an organization of a million members was built up and a labour bureaucracy which led the entire movement was educated – this fact does not cease to exist and does not lose its weighty significance because Marxism anticipated the revolutionary character of the future movement. Only the most naive ideology could give the same place to this forecast that it does to the political actualities of the German labour movement.

The German Revisionists were influenced in their conduct by the contradiction between the reform practice of the party and its revolutionary theories. They did not understand that this contradiction is conditioned by temporary, even if long-lasting circumstances and that it can only be overcome by further social development. To them it was a logical contradiction. The mistake of the Revisionists was not that they confirmed the reformist character of the party’s tactics in the past, but that they wanted to perpetuate reformism theoretically and make it the only method of the proletarian class struggle. Thus, the Revisionists failed to take into account the objective tendencies of capitalist development, which by deepening class distinctions must lead to the Social Revolution a the one way to the emancipation of the proletariat. Marxism emerged from this theoretical dispute as the victor all along the line. But Revisionism, although defeated on the field of theory, continued to live, drawing sustenance from the actual conduct and the psychology of the whole movement. The critical refutation of Revisionism as a theory by no means signified its defeat tactically and psychologically. The parliamentarians, the unionists, the comrades continued to live and to work in the atmosphere of general opportunism, of practical specializing and of nationalistic narrowness. Reformism made its impress even upon the mind of August Bebel, the greatest representative of this period.

The spirit of opportunism must have taken a particularly strong hold on the generation that came into the party in the eighties, in the time of Bismarck’s anti-Socialist laws and of oppressive reaction all over Europe. Lacking the apostolic zeal of the generation that was connected with the First International, hindered in its first steps by the power of victorious imperialism, forced to adapt itself to the traps and snares of the anti-Socialist laws, this generation grew up in the spirit of moderation and constitutional distrust of revolution. They are now men of fifty to sixty years old, and they are the very ones who are now at the head of the unions and the political organizations. Reformism is their political psychology, if not also their doctrine. The gradual growing into Socialism – that is the basis of Revisionisin – proved to be the most miserable Utopian dream in face of the facts of capitalist development. But the gradual political growth of the Social Democracy into the mechanism of the national state has turned out to be a tragic actuality – for the entire race.

The Russian Revolution was the first great event to bring a fresh whiff into the stale atmosphere of Europe in the thirty five years since the Paris Commune. The rapid development of the Russian working class and the unexpected strength of their concentrated revolutionary activity made a great impression on the entire civilized world and gave an impetus everywhere to the sharpening of political differences. In England the Russian Revolution hastened the formation of an independent labour party. In Austria, thanks to special circumstances, it led to universal manhood suffrage. In France the echo of the Russian Revolution took the form of Syndicalism, which gave expression, in inadequate practical and theoretical form, to the awakened revolutionary tendencies of the French proletariat. And in Germany the influence of the Russian Revolution showed itself in the strengthening of the young Left wing of the party, in the rapprochement of the leading Centre to it, and in the isolation of Revisionism. The question of the Prussian franchise, this key to the political position of Junkerdom, took on a keener edge. And the party adopted in principle the revolutionary method of the general strike. But all this external shaking up proved inadequate to shove the party on to the road of the political offensive. In accordance with the party tradition, the turn toward radicalism found expression in discussions and the adoption of resolutions. That was as far as it ever went.



Six or seven years ago a political ebbtide everywhere followed upon the revolutionary flood-tide. In Russia the counter-revolution triumphed and began a period of decay for the Russian proletariat both in politics and in the strength of their organizations. In Austria the thread of achievements started by the working class broke off, social insurance legislation rotted in the government offices, nationalist conflicts began again with renewed vigour in the arena of universal manhood suffrage, weakening and dividing the Social Democracy. In England, the Labour Party, after separating from the Liberal Party, entered into the closest association with it again. In France the Syndicalists passed over to reformist positions. Gustave Hervé changed to the opposite of himself in the shortest time. And in the German Social Democracy the Revisionists lifted their heads, encouraged by history’s having given them such a revenge. The South Germans perpetrated their demonstrative vote for the budget. The Marxists were compelled to change from offensive to defensive tactics. The efforts of the Left Wing to draw the party into a more active policy were unsuccessful. The dominating Centre swung more and more towards the Right, isolating the Radicals. Conservatism, recovering from the blows it received in 1905, triumphed all along the line.

In default of revolutionary activity as well as the possibility for reformist work, the party spent its entire ienergy on building up the organization, on gaining new members for the unions and for the party, on starting new papers and getting new subscribers. Condemned for decades to a policy of opportunist waiting, the party took up the cult of organization as an end in itself. Never was the spirit of inertia produced by mere routine work so strong in the German Social Democracy as in the years immediately preceding the great catastrophe. And there can be no doubt that the question of the preservation of the organizations, treasuries, People’s Houses and printing presses played a mighty important part in the position taken by the fraction in the Reichstag towards the War. “Had we done anything else we would have brought ruin upon our organization and our presses,” was the first argument I heard from a leading German comrade.

And how characteristic it is of the opportunistic psychology induced by mere organization work, that out of ninety-one Social Democratic papers not one found it possible to protest against the violation of Belgium. Not one! After the repeal of the anti-Socialist laws, the party hesitated long before starting its own printing presses, lest these might be confiscated by the Government in the event of great happenings. And now that it has its own presses, the party hierarchy fears every decisive step so as not to afford opportunity for confiscation.

Most eloquent of all is the incident of the Vorwärts which begged for permission to continue to exist on the basis of a new program indefinitely suspending the class conflict. Every friend of the German Social Democracy had a sense of profound pain when he received his issue of the central organ with its humiliating “By Order of Army Headquarters”. Had the Vorwärts remained under interdiction, that would have been an important political fact to which the party later could have referred with pride. At any rate that would have been far more honourable than to continue to exist with the imprint of the general’s boots on its forehead.

But hgher than all considerations of policy and the dignity of the party stood considerations of membership, printing presses, organization. And so the Vorwärts now lives as two-paged evidence of the unlimited brutality of Junkerdom in Berlin and in Louvain, and of the unlimited opportunism of the German Social Democracy.

The Right wing stood more by its principles, which resulted from political considerations. Wolfgang Heine crassly formulated these principles of German Reformism in an absurd discussion as to whether the Social Democrats should leave the hall of the Reichstag when the members rose to cheer the Emperor’s name, or whether they should merely keep their seats. “The creation of a republic in the German Empire is now and for some time to come out of the range of all possibility, so that it is not really a matter for our present policy.” The practical results still not yet achieved may be reached, but only through cooperation with the liberal bourgeoisie. “For that reason, not because I am a stickler for form, I have called attention to the fact that parliamentary cooperation will be rendered difficult by demonstrations that needlessly hurt the feelings of the majority of the House.”

But if a simple infringement of monarchical etiquette was enough to destroy the hope of reformist cooperation with the liberal middle class, then certainly the break with the bourgeois “nation” in the moment of national “danger” would have hindered, for years to come, not only all desired reforms, but also all reformist desires. That attitude that was dictated to the routinists of the party centre by sheer anxiety over the preservation of the organization was supplemented among the Revisionists by political considerations. Their standpoint proved in every respect to be more comprehensive and won the victory all over. The entire party press is now industriously acclaiming what it once heaped scorn upon, that the present patriotic attitude of the working class will win for them, after the War, the good will of the possessing classes for bringing about reforms.

Therefore, the German Social Democracy did not feel itself, under the stress of these great events, a revolutionary power with tasks far exceeding the question of widening the state’s boundaries, a power that does not lose itself for an instant in the nationalistic whirl but calmly awaits the favourable moment for joining with the other branches of the International in a purposeful interference in the course of events. No, instead of that the German Social Democracy felt itself to be a sort of cumbersome train threatened by hostile cavalry. For that reason it subordinated the entire future of the International to the quite extraneous question of the defence of the frontiers of the class state because it felt itself first and foremost to be a conservative state within the state.

“Look at Belgium!” cries the Vorwärts to encourage the workmen-soldiers. The People’s Houses there have been changed into army hospitals, the newspapers suppressed, all party life crushed out. [A sentimental correspondent of the Vorwärts writes that he was looking for Belgian comrades in the Maison da Peuple and found a German Army hospital here. And what did the Vorwärts correspondent want of his Belgian comrades? “To win them to the cause of the German people” – when Brussels itself had already been won “for the cause of the German people!”] And therefore hold out until the end, “until the decisive victory is ours.” In other words, keep on destroying, let the work of your own hands be a terrifying lesson to you. “Look at Belgium,” and out of this terror draw courage for renewed destruction.

What has just been said refers not to the German Social Democracy alone, but also to all the older branches of the International that have lived through the history of the last half century.



The is one factor in the collapse of the Second International the is still unclarified. It dwells at the heart of all the events that the Party has passed through.

The dependence of the proletarian class movement, particularly in its economic conflicts, upon the scope and the successes of the imperialistic policy of the state is a question which, as far as I know, has never been discussed in the Socialist press. Nor can I attempt to solve it in the short space of this work. So what I shall say on this point will necessarily be in the nature of a brief review.

The proletariat is deeply interested in the development of the forces of production. The national state created in Europe by the revolutions and wars of the years 1789 to 1870 was the basic type of the economic evolution of the past period. The proletariat contributed by its entire conscious policy to the development of the forces of production on a national foundation. It supported the bourgeoisie in its conflicts with alien enemies for national liberation; also in its conflicts with the monarchy, with feudalism and the church for political democracy. And in the measure in which the bourgeois turned to “law and order”, that is, became reactionary, the proletariat assumed the historical task the bourgeoisie had left uncompleted. In championing a policy of peace, culture and democracy, as against the bourgeoisie, it contributed to the enlargement of the national market, and so gave an impetus to the development of the forces of production.

The proletariat had an equal econmic interest in the democratizing and the cultural progress of all other countries in their relation of buyer or seller to its own country. In this resided the most important guarantee for the international solidarity of the proletanat both in so far as final aims and daily policies are concerned. The struggle against the remnants of feudal barbarism, against the boundless demands of militarism, against agrarian duties and indirect taxes was the main object of working-class politics and served, directly and indirectly, to help develop the forces of production. That s the very reason why the great majority of organized labour ]oined political forces with the Social democracy. Every hindrance to the develo ment of the forces of production touches the trade unions mot closely.

As capitalism passed from a national to an international-imperialistic ground, national production, and with it the economic struggle of the proletariat, came into direct dependence on those conditions of the world market which are secured by dreadnaughts and cannon. In other words, in contradiction of the fundarrental interests of the proletariat taken in their wide historic extent, the immediate trade interests of various strata of the proletariat proved to have a direct dependence upon the successes or the failures of the foreign policies of the governments.

England long before the other countries placed her capitalist development on the basis of predatory imperialism, and she interested the upper strata of the proletariat in her world dominion. In championing its own class interests, the English proletariat limited itself to exercising pressure on the bourgeois parties which granted it a share in the capitalist exploitation of other countries. It did not begin an independent policy until England began to lose her position in the world market, pushed aside, among others, by her main rival, Germany.

But with Germany’s growth to industrial world-importance, grew the dependence of broad strata of the German proletariat on German imperialism, not materially alone but also ideally. The Vorwärts wrote on August 11th that the German workingmen, “counted among the politically intelligent, to whom we have preached the dangers of imperialism for years (although with very little success, we must confess)” denounce Italian neutrality like the extremest chauvinists. But that did not prevent the Vorwärts from feeding the German workingmen on “national” and “democratic” arguments in justification of the bloody work of imperialism. (Some writers’ backbones are as flexible as their pens.)

However, all this does not alter facts. When the decisive moment came, there seemed to be no irreconcilable enmity to imperialistic policies in the consciousness of the German workingmen. On the contrary, they seemed to listen readily to imperialist whisperings veiled in national and democratic phraseology. This is not the first time that Socialstic imperialism reveals itself in the German Social Democracy. Suffice it to recall the fact that at the International Congress in Stuttgart it was the majority of German delegates, notably the trade unionists, who voted against the Marxist resolution on the colonial policy. [40] The occurrence made a sensation at the time, but its true significance comes out more clearly in the light of present events. Just now the trade union press is linking the cause of the German working class to the work of the army with more consciousness and matter-of-factness than do the political organs.

As long as capitalism remained on a national basis, the proletanat could not refrain from cooperation in democratizing the political relations and in developing the forces of production through its parliamentary, communal and other activities. The attempts of the anarchists to set up a formal revolutionary agitation in opposition to the political fights of the Social Democracy condemned them to isolation and gradual extinction. But when the capitalist states overstep their national form to become imperialistic world powers, the proletariat cannot oppose this new imperialism. And the reason is the so-called minimal program which fashioned its policy upon the framework of the national state. When its main concern is for tariff treaties and social legislation, the proletariat is incapable of expending the same energy in fighting imperialism that it did in fighting feudalism. By applying its old methods of the class struggle – the constant adaptation to the movements of the markets – to the changed conditions produced by imperialism, it itself falls into material and ideological dependence on imperialism.

The only way the proletariat can pit its revolutionary force against imperialism is under the banner of Socialism. The working class is powerless against imperialism as long as its great organizations stand by their old opportunist tactics. The working class will be all-powerful against imperialism when it takes to the battlefield of Social Revolution.

The methods of national-parliamentary opposition not only fail to produce practical results, but also cease to make an appeal to the labouring masses, because the workers find that, behind the backs of the parliamentarians, imperialism, by armed force, reduces the wages and the very lives of the workers to ever greater dependence on its successes in the world market.

It was clear to every thinking Socialist that the only way the proletariat could be made to pass from opportunism to Revolution was not by agitation, but by a historical upheaval. But no one foresaw that history would preface this inevitable change of tactics by such a catastrophal collapse of the International. History works with titanic relentlessness. What is the Rheims Cathedral [41] to History? And what a few hundred or thousand political reputations? And what the life or death of hundreds of thousands or of millions?

The proletariat has remained too long in the preparatory school, much longer than its great pioneer fighters thought it would. History took her broom in hand, swept the International of the epigones apart in all directions and led the slow-moving millions into the field where their last illusions are being washed away in blood. A terrible experiment! On its result perhaps hangs the fate of European civilization.



AT THE close of the last century a heated controversy arose in Germany over the question, What effect does the industrialization of a country produce upon its military power? The reactionary agrarian politicians and writers, like Sehring, Karl Ballod, Georg Hansen and others, argued that the rapid increase of the city populations at the expense of the rural districts positively undermined the foundation of the Empire’s military power, and they of course drew from it their patriotic inferences in the spirit of agrarian protectionism. On the other hand Lujo Brentano and his school championed an exactly opposite point of view. They pointed out that economic industrialism not only opened up new financial and technical resources, but also developed in the proletariat the vital force capable of making effective use of all the new means of defence and attack. He quotes authorititative opinions to show that even in the earlier experiences of 1870-71 “the regiments from the preponderatingly industrial district of Westphalia were among the very best.” And he explains this fact quite correctly by the far greater ability of the industrial worker to find his bearings in new conditions and to adjust himself to them.

Now which side is right? The present War proves that Germany, which had made the greatest progress along capitalist lines, was able to develop the highest military power. And likewise in regard to all the countries drawn into it the War proves what colossal and yet competent energy the working class develops in its warlike activities. It is not the passive horde-like heroism of the peasant masses, welded together by fatalistic submissiveness and religious superstition. It is the individualized spirit of sacrifice, born of inner impulse, ranging itself under the banner of the Idea.

But the Idea under whose banner the armed proletariat now stands, is the Idea of war-crafty nationalism, the deadly enemy of the true interests of the workers. The ruling class showed themselves strong enough to force their Idea upon the proletariat, and the proletariat, in the consciousness of what they were doing, put their intelligence, their enthusiasm and their courage at the service of their class foes. In this fact is sealed the terrible defeat of Socialism. But it also opens up all possibilities for a final victory of Socialism. There can be no doubt that a class which is capable of displaying such steadfastness and self-sacrifice in a war it considers a ‘just” one, will be still more capable of developing these qualities when the march of events will give it tasks really worthy of the historical mission of this class.

The epoch of the awakening, the enlightenment and the organization of the working-class revealed that it has tremendous resources of revolutionary energy which found no adequate employment in the daily struggle. The Social Democracy summoned the upper strata of the proletariat into the field, but it also checked their revolutionary energy by adopting the tactics it was obliged to adopt, the tactics of waiting, the strategy of letting your opponent exhaust himself. The character of this period was so dull and reactionary that it did not allow the Social Democracy the opportunity to give the proletariat tasks that would have engaged their whole spirit of sacrifice.

Imperialism is now giving them such tasks. And imperialism attained its object by pushing the proletariat into a position of “national defence”, which, to the workers, meant the defence of all their hands had created, not only the immense wealth of the nation, but also their own class organizations, their treasuries, their press, in short, everything they had unwearingly, painfully struggled for and attained in the course of several decades. Imperialism violently threw society off its balance, destroyed the sluice-gates built by the Social Democracy to regulate the current of proletarian revolutionary energy, and guided this current into its own bed.

But this terrific historical experiment, which at one blow broke the back of the Socialist International, carries a deadly danger for bourgeois society itself. The hammer is wrenched out of the worker’s hand and a gun put into his hand instead. And the worker, who has been tied down by the machinery of the capitalist system, is suddenly torn from his usual setting and taught to place the aims of society above happiness at home and even life itself.

With the weapon in his hand that he himself has forged, the worker is put in a position where the political destiny of the state is directly dependent upon him. Those who exploited and scorned him in normal times, now flatter him and toady to him. At the same time he comes into initmate contact with the cannon, which Lassalle calls one of the most important ingredients of all constitutions. [42] He crosses the border, takes part in forceful requisitions, and helps in the transfer of cities from one party to another. Changes are taking place such as the present generation has never before seen.

Even though the vanguard of the working class knew in theory that Might is the mother of Right, still their political thinking was completely permeated by the spirit of opportunism, of adaptation to bourgeois legalism. Now they are learning from the teachings of facts to despise this legalism and tear it down. Now dynamic forces are replacing the static forces in their psychology. The great guns are hammering into their heads the idea ihat if it is impossible to get around an obstacle, it is possible to destroy it. Almost the entire adult male population is going through this school of war, so terrible in its realism, a school which is forming a new human type. Iron necessity is now shaking its fist at all the rules of bourgeois society, at its laws, its morality, its religion. “Necessity knows no law”, said the German Chancellor on August 4th. Monarchs walk about in public places calling each other liars in the language of marketwomen; governments repudiate their solemnly acknowledged obligations; and the national church ties its God to the national cannon like a criminal condemned to hard labour. Is it not clear that all these circumstances must bring about a profound change in the mental attitude of the working class, curing them radically of the hypnosis of legality in which a period of political stagnation expresses itself?

The possessing classes, to their consternation, will soon have to recognize this change. A working class that has been through the school of war will feel the need of using the language of force as soon as the first serious obstacle faces them within their own country. “Necessity knows no law”, the workers will cry when the attempt is made to hold them back at the command of bourgeois law. And poverty, the terrible poverty that prevails during this War and will continue after its close, will be of a sort to force the masses to violate many a bourgeois law. The general economic exhaustion in Europe will affect the proletariat most immediately and most severely. The state’s material resources will be depleted by the War, and the possibility of satisfying the demands of the working masses will be very limited. This must lead to profound political conflicts, which, ever widening and deepening, may take on the character of a social revolution, the progress and outcome of which no one, of course, can now foresee.

On the other hand, the War with its armies of millions, and its hellish weapons of destruction can exhaust not only society’s resources but also the moral forces of the proletariat. If it does not meet inner resistance, this War may last for several years more, with changing fortunes on both sides, until the chief belligerents are completely exhausted. But then the whole fighting energy of the international proletariat, brought to the surface by the bloody conspiracy of imperialism, will be completely consumed in the horrible work of mutual annihilation. The outcome would be that our entire civilization would be set back by many decades. A peace resulting not from the will of the awakened peoples but from the mutual exhaustion of the belligerents, would be like the peace with which the Balkan War was concluded; it would be a Bucharest Peace extended to the whole of Europe.

Such a peace would seek to patch up anew the contradictions, antagonisms and deficiencies that have led to the present War. And with many other things, the Socialist work of two generations would vanish in a sea of blood without leaving a trace behind.

Which of the two prospects is the more probable? This cannot possibly be theoretically determined in advance. The issue depends entirely upon the activity of the vital forces of society – above all upon the revolutionary Social Democracy.

“Immediate cessation of the War” is the watchword under which the Social Democracy can reassemble its scattered ranks, both within the national parties, and in the whole International. The proletariat cannot make its will to peace dependent upon the strategic considerations of the general staffs. On the contrary, it must oppose its desire for peace to these military considerations. What the warring governments call a struggle for national self-preservation is in reality a mutual national annihilation. Real national self-defence now consists in the struggle for peace.

Such a struggle for peace means for us not only a fight to save humanity’s material and cultural possessions from further insane destruction. It is for us primarily a fight to preserve the revolutionary energy of the proletariat.

To assemble the ranks of the proletariat in a fight for peace means again to place the forces of revolutionary Socialism against raging tearing imperialism on the whole front.

The conditions upon which peace should be concluded – the peace of the people themselves, and not the reconciliation of the diplomats – must be the same for the whole International.




The peace agitation, which must be conducted simultaneously with all the means now at the disposal of the Social Democracy as well as those which, with a good will, it could acquire, will not only tear the workers out of their nationalistic hypnosis; it will also do the aving work of inner pun ficati on in the present official parties of the proletariat. The national Revisionists and the Socialist patriots in the Second International, who have been exploiting the influence that Socialism has acquired over the working masses for national militaristic aims, must be thrust back into the camp of the enemies of the working class by uncompromising revolutionary agitation for peace.

The revolutionary Social Democracy need not fear that it will be isolated, now less than ever. The War is making the most terrible agitation against itself. Every day that the War lasts will bring new masses of people to our banner, if it is an honest banner of peace and democracy. The surest way by which the Social Democracy can isolate the militaristic reaction in Europe and force it to take the offensive is by the slogan of Peace.

We revolutionary Marxists have no cause for despair. The epoch into which we are now entering will be our epoch. Marxism is not defeated. On the contrary: the roar of the cannon in every quarter of Europe heralds the theoretical victory of Marxism. What is left now of the hopes for a “peaceful” development, for a mitigation of capitalist class contrasts, for a regular systematic growth into Socialism?

The Reformists on principle, who hoped to solve the social question by the way of tariff treaties, consumers’ leagues, and the parliamentary cooperation of the Social Democracy with the bourgeois parties, are now all resting their hopes on the victory of the “national” arms. They are expecting the possessing classes to show greater willingness to meet the needs of the proletariat because it has proved its patriotism.

This expectation would be positively foolish if there were not hidden behind it another, far less “idealistic” hope – that a military victory would create for the bourgeoisie a broader imperialistic field for enriching itself at the expense of the bourgeoisie of other countnes, and would enable it to share some of the booty with its own proletariat at the expense of the proletariat of other countries. Socialist reformism has actually turned into Sociaitst imperiaitsm.

We have witnessed with our own eyes the pathetic bankruptcy of the hopes of a peaceful growth of proletarian well-being. The Reformists, contrary to their own doctrine, were forced to resort to violence in order to find their way out of the political cul-de-sac – not the violence of the peoples against the ruling classes, but the military violence of the ruling classes against other nations. Since 1848 the German bourgeoisie has renounced revolutionary methods for solving its problems. They left it to the feudal class to solve their own bourgeois questions by the method of war. Social development confronted the proletariat with the problem of revolution. Evading revolution, the Reformists were forced to go through the same process of historical decline as the liberal bourgeoisie. The Reformists also left it to their ruling classes, that is the same feudal caste, to solve the proletarian problem by the method of war. But this ends the analogy.

The creation of national states did really solve the bourgeois problem for a long period, and the long series of colonial wars coming after 1871 finished off the period by broadening the arena of the development of the capitalist forces. The period of colonial wars carried on by the national states led to the present War of the national states – for colonies. After all the backward portions of the earth had been divided among the capitalist states, there was nothing left for these states except to grab the colonies from each other.

“People ought not to be talking,” says Georg Irmer, “as though it were a settled thing that the German nation has come too late for rivalry for world economy and world dominion that the world has already been divided. Has not the earth been divided over and over again in all epochs of history?”

But a redivision of colonies among the capitalist countries does no enlarge the foundation of capitalist development. One country’s gain means another country’s loss. Accordingly a temporary mitigation of class-conflicts in Germany could only be achieved by an extreme intensification of the class struggle in France and in England, and vice versa. An additional factor of decisive importance is the capitalist awakening in the colonies themselves, to which the presentWar must give a mighty impetus. Whatever the outcome of this War, the imperialistic basis for European capitalism will not be broadened, but narrowed. The War, therefore, does not solve the labour question on an imperialistic basis, but, on the contrary, it intensifies it, putting this alternative to the capitalist world: Permanent War or Permanent Revolution.

If the War got beyond the control of the Second International, its immediate consequences will get beyond the control of the bourgeoisie of the entire world. We revolutionary Socialists did not want the War. But we do not fear it. We do not give in to despair over the fact that the War broke up the International. History has already disposed of the International.

The revolutionary epoch will create new forms of organization out of the inexhaustible resources of proletarian Socialism, new forms that will be equal to the greatness of the new tasks. To this work we will apply ourselves at once, amid the mad roaring of the machine-guns, the crashing of cathedrals, and the patriotic howling of the capitalist jackals. We will keep our clear minds amid this hellish death music, our undimmed vision. We feel ourselves to be the only creative force of the future. Already there are many of us, more than it may seem. Tomorrow there will be more of us than today. And the day after tomorrow, millions will rise up under ourbanner, millions who even now, sixty seven years after the Communist Manifesto, have nothing to lose but their chains.


Excerpts from Leon Trotsky’s, My Life, (1930) Chap. XVIII, The Beginning of the War)

The booklet, The War and the International, like all my other books, had its own peculiar destiny, first in Switzerland, then in Germany and France, later in America, and finally in Soviet Russia. A few words must be said about all this. My work was translated from the Russian manuscript by a Russian whose command of German was far from perfect. A professor in Zurich, Ragaz, took it upon himself to edit the translation, and this gave me an opportunity to know an original personality

But the book, thanks to Ragaz, came out in good German. From Switzerland it found its way, as early as December 1914, to Austria and Germany. The Swiss Left-wingers F. Platten and others saw to that. Intended for German countries, the pamphlet was directed first of all against the German Social Democracy, the leading party of the Second International. I remember that a journalist named Heilmann, who played first-violin in the orchestra of chauvinism, called my book mad, but quite logical in its madness. I could not have wished for greater praise. There was, of course, no lack of hints that my book was an artful tool of Entente propaganda.

Later on, in France, I came unexpectedly across a report in the French papers, by way of Switzerland, that one of the German courts had sentenced me in a state of contumacy to imprisonment for the Zurich pamphlet. From this I concluded that the pamphlet had hit the mark. The Hohenzollern judges did me a very good turn by their sentence, a sentence that I was not in any hurry to serve. For the slanderers and spies of the Entente, this German court-sentence was always a stumbling-block in their noble efforts to prove that I was nothing more than an agent of the German general staff.

This did not keep the French authorities, however, from holding up my book at the frontier on the strength of its “German origin”. An ambiguous note defending my pamphlet against the French censorship appeared in the newspaper published by HervÉ. I believe that it was written by Ch. Rappaport, a man of some note, who was almost a Marxist; at any rate, he was the author of the greatest number of puns ever invented by any man who has devoted a long life to them.

After the October revolution, an enterprising New York publisher brought out my German pamphlet as an imposing American book. According to his own statement, President Wilson asked him, by telephone from the White House, to send the proofs of the book to him; at that time, the President was composing his Fourteen Points, and, according to reports from people who were informed, could not get over the fact that a Bolshevik had forestalled him in his best formulae. Within two months the sales of the book in America reached 16,000 copies. Then came the days of the Brest-Litovsk peace. The American press raised a furious campaign against me, and the book instantly disappeared from the market.

In the Soviet Republic my Zurich pamphlet had by that time gone through several editions, serving as a text-book for the study of the Marxist attitude toward the war. It disappeared from the “market” of the Communist International only after 1924, the year when “Trotskyism” was discovered. At present, the pamphlet is still under a ban, as it was before the revolution.

Indeed, it would seem that books have their own destiny ...


Workers of Europe!

The war has lasted for more than a year. Millions of corpses lie upon the battlefields; millions of men have been crippled for life. Europe has become a gigantic human slaughter-house. All science, the work of many generations, is devoted to destruction. The most savage barbarity is celebrating its triumph over everything that was previously the pride of mankind.

Whatever may be the truth about the immediate responsibility for the outbreak of the war, one thing is certain: the war that has occasioned this chaos is the outcome of Imperialism, of the endeavours of the capitalist classes of every nation to satisfy their greed for profit by the exploitation of human labour and of the treasures of Nature.

Those nations which are economically backward or politically feeble are threatened with subjugation by the great Powers, which are attempting by blood and iron to change the map of the world in accordance with their exploiting interests. Whole peoples and countries, such as Belgium, Poland, the Balkan states, and Armenia, either as units or in sections, are menaced by annexation as booty in the bargaining for compensations.

As the war proceeds its real driving forces become apparent in all their baseness. Piece by piece the veil which has hidden the meaning of this world catastrophe from the understanding of the peoples is falling down. In every country the Capitalists who forge the gold of war profits from the blood of the people are declaring that the war is for national defence, democracy, and the liberation of oppressed nationalities. THEY LIE.

In reality they are actually burying on the fields of devastation the liberties of their own peoples, together with the independence of other nations. New fetters, new chains, new burdens are being brought into existence, and the workers of all countries, of the victorious as well as of the vanquished, will have to bear them. To raise civilization to a higher level was the aim announced at the beginning of the war: misery and privation, unemployment and want, underfeeding and disease are the actual results. For decades and decades to come the cost of the war will devour the strength of the peoples, imperil the work of social reform and hamper every step on the path of progress.

Intellectual and moral desolation, economic disaster, political reaction – such are the blessings of this horrible struggle between the nations.

Thus does the war unveil the naked form of modern Capitalism, which has become irreconcilable, not only with the interests of the working masses, not only With the circumstances of historic development, but even with the first conditions of human communal existence.

The ruling forces of Capitalist society, in whose hands were the destinies of the nations, the monarchical and the Republican Governments, secret diplomacy, the vast employers’ organizations, the middle-class parties, the Capitalist Press, the Church – all these forces must bear the full weight of responsibility for this war, which has been produced by the social order nourishing them and protecting them and which is being carried on for the sake of their interests.


Exploited, deprived of your rights, despised – you were recognized as brothers and comrades at the outbreak of the war before you were summoned to march to the shambles, to death. And now, when militarism has crippled, lacerated, degraded, and destroyed you, the rulers are demanding from you the abandonment of your interests, of your aims, of your ideals – in a word, slavish submission to the “national truce.” You are prevented from expressing your views, your feelings, your pain; you are not allowed to put forth your demands and to fight for them. The press is muzzled, political rights and liberties are trampled upon – thus is military dictatorship ruling today with the iron hand.

We cannot, we dare not, any longer remain inactive in the presence of a state of things that is menacing the whole future of Europe and of mankind. For many decades the Socialist working class has carried on the struggle against militarism. With growing anxiety its representatives at their national and international conferences have devoted themselves to the war peril, the outcome of an Imperialism which was becoming more and more menacing. At Stuttgart, Copenhagen, and Basle the International Socialist Congresses indicated the path that the workers should follow. [44]

But we Socialist Parties and working-class organizations which had taken part in determining this path have since the outbreak of war disregarded the obligations that followed therefrom. Their representatives have invited the workers to suspend the working class struggle, the only possible and effective means of working class emancipation. They have voted the ruling classes the credits for carrying on the war. They have put themselves at the disposal of their Governments for the most varied services. They have tried through their press and their envoys to win over the neutrals to the Government policies of their respective countries. They have given to their Government Socialist Ministers as hostages for the observance of the national truce, and thus have taken on themselves the responsibility for this war, its aims, its methods. And just as Socialist Parties failed separately, so did the most responsible representative of the Socialists of all countries fail: the International Socialist Bureau. [45]

These facts constitute one of the reasons why the international working-class movement, even where sections of it did not fall a victim to the national panic of the first period of the war, or where it rose above it, has failed, even now, in the second year of the butchering of nations, to take up simultaneously in all countries an active struggle for peace.

In this intolerable situation we have met together, we representatives of Socialist Parties of Trade Unions, or of minorities of them, we Germans, French, Italians, Russians, Poles, Letts, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Swedes, Norwegians, Dutch and Swiss, we who are standing on the ground, not of national solidarity with the exploiting class, but of the international solidarity of the workers and the working-class struggle. We have met together in order to join anew the broken ties of international relations and to summon the working class to reorganize and begin the struggle for peace.

This struggle is also the struggle for liberty, for Brotherhood of nations, for Socialism. The task is to take up this fight for peace for a peace without annexations or war indemnities. Such a peace is only possible when every thought of violating the rights and liberties of the nations is condemned. There must be no enforced incorporation either of wholly or partly occupied countries. No annexations, either open or masked, no forced economic union, made still more intolerable by the suppression of political rights. The right of nations to select their own government must be the immovable fundamental principle of international relations.

Organized Workers!

Since the outbreak of the war you have put your energies, your courage, your steadfastness at the service of the ruling classes. Now the task is to enter the lists for your own cause, for the sacred aims of Socialism, for the salvation of the oppressed nations and the enslaved classes, by means of the irreconcilable working-class struggle.

It is the task and the duty of the Socialists of the belligerent countries to begin this struggle with all their power. It is the task and duty of the Socialists of the neutral countries to support their brothers by all effective means in this fight against bloody barbarity.

Never in the history of the world has there been a more urgent, a more noble, a more sublime task, the fulfilment of which must be our common work. No sacrifice is too great, no burden too heavy, to attain this end: the establishment of peace between the nations.

Working men and women! Mothers and fathers! Widows and orphans! Wounded and crippled! To all who are suffering from the war or in consequence of the war, we cry out over the frontiers, over the smoking battlefields, over the devastated cities and hamlets:

“Workers of all countries unite”

In the name of the International Socialist Conference:

For the German Delegation: George Ledebour, Adolph Hoffman

For the French Delegation: A. Merrheim, Bourderon

For the Italian Delegation: G. E. Modigijani, Consanino Lazzari

For the Russian Delegation: N. Lenin, Paul Axeirod, M. Bobrov

For the Polish Delegation: St. Lapinski, A. Warski, Cz. (Jacob) Hanecki

For the Inter-Balkan Socialist Federation:

(For the Rumanian Delegation) G. Rakovsky

(For the Bulgarian Delegation) Vasil Kolaro.

For the Swedish and Norwegian Delegation: Z. Hoglund, Ture Nerman.

For the Dutch Delegation: H. Roland-Holst.

For the Swiss Delegation: Robert Grimm.

September 1915.



The undersigned declare as follows:

The manifesto adopted by the Conference does not give us complete satisfaction. It contains no pronouncement on either open opportunism, or opportunism that is hiding under radical phraseology, the opportunism which is not only the chief cause of the collapse of the International, but which strives to perpetuate that collapse. The manifesto contains no clear pronouncement as to the methods of fighting against the war.

We shall continue, as we have done heretofore, to advocate in the Socialist press and at the meetings of the International, a clear-cut Marxian position in regard to the tasks with which the epoch of imperialism has confronted the proletariat.

We vote for the manifesto because we regard it as a call to struggle and in this struggle we are anxious to march side by side with the other sections of the International.

We request that our present declaration be included in the official proceedings.

Signed: N. Lenin, G. Zinoviev, Radek, Nerman, Hoglund, Winter.


The other declaration, which was signed in addition to the group that had introduced the resolution of the Left, by Roland Holst and Trotsky, reads as follows:

“Inasmuch as the adoption of our amendment (to the manifesto) demanding the vote against war appropriations might in any way endanger the success of the Conference, we do, under protest, withdraw our amendment and accept Ledebour’s statement in the commission to the effect that the manifesto contains all that is implied in our proposition.”

It may be added that Ledebour, as an ultimatum, demanded the rejection of the amendment, refusing to sign the manifesto otherwise.



30, October, 1916

To M. the Minister of State, Jules Guesde:

Before quitting the soil of France, under the escort of a police officer, who personifies the liberties over whose defence you stand guard in the National Cabinet, I deem it my duty to express to you a few thoughts which, while they will most likely not be of any use to you, will at least be of use against you. In expelling me from France, your colleague, the Minister for War, did not think fit to indicate the causes for prohibiting the Russian Newspaper Nashe Slovo [46], one of whose editors I was, and which had for two years, suffered all the torments of a censorship, operating under the aegis of this same Minister for War.

Still, I shall not conceal from you the fact that for me there is no mystery about the reasons for my expulsion. You feel the need for adopting repressive measures against an international socialist, against one of those who refuse to accept the part of defender or ready slave of the imperialist war.

But while the reasons for this measure have not been communicated to me, who am the one concerned and at whom it is directed, they have been stated by M. Briand to the deputies and to the journalists.

In Marseilles last August, a group of mutinying Russian soldiers killed their colonel. The investigation is alleged to have disclosed that a number of these soldiers were in possession of a number of copies of Nashe Slovo. In any case, this is the explanation given by M. Briand in an interview with Deputy and with the President of the Chamber Committee of Foreign Affairs, M. Leysques, who in turn, transmitted this version to the Russian bourgeois press.

To be sure, M. did not dare to assert that Nashe Slovo, which was subject to his own censorship, was directly responsible for the killing of this officer. His thoughts may be expressed as follows: In view of the presence of Russian soldiers in France, it is necessary to sweep Nashe Slovo and its editors off the soil of the Republic. For a Socialist newspaper that refuses to spread illusions and lies may – in the memorable phrase of M. Renaudel – “put bees in the bonnets” of the Russian soldiers and lead them into the dangerous path of reflection.

Unfortunately, however, for M. Briand, his explanation is based upon a scandalous anachronism. A year ago, Gustave Hervé, at that time still a member of the permanent Administrative Commission of your party, said that if Malvy were to kick out of France those Russian refugees guilty of revolutionary internationalism, he, Hervé, guaranteed that the public opinion of his janitors would accept such a measure without any objection. Obviously, there can be no doubt that Hervé quaffed his inspiration in a ministerial closet.

At the end of July the same Hervé whispered, semi-officially, that I was to be expelled from France.

At about the same time – i.e., still before the killing of the colonel at Marseilles – Prof. Durkheim, the President of the Commission for Russian refugees, appointed by the Government, informed a representative of the refugees, of the impending suppression of Nashe Slovo and the expulsion of the editors.

Thus everything had been arranged in advance, even the public opinion of M. Hervé’s janitors. They waited only for a pretext to strike the final blow. And the pretext was found at the moment the unfortunate Russian soldiers – acting in somebody’s interests – killed their colonel.

This providential coincidence invites an assumption which, I fear, may offend your still virginal ministerial modesty. The Russian journalists who have made a special investigation into the Marseilles incident have established the fact that in this affair, as almost always in such cases, an active role was played by an agent provocateur. It is easy to understand what was his aim, or rather what was the aim of the blackguards who directed him. They required some excess on the part of the Russian soldiers, first, to justify the regime of the knout which is still somewhat offensive to the French authorities, and then to create a pretext for measures to be taken against Russian refugees who take advantage of French hospitality in order to demoralize Russian soldiers in wartime.

It is not hard to acknowledge that the instigators of this scheme did not themselves believe that the affair would go so far or such was their intention. It is probable that they hoped to achieve ampler results by smaller sacrifices. But undertakings of this sort involve an element of professional risk. In this case, however, the victim was not the provocateur himself but Col. Krause and those who killed him. Even the patriotic Russian journalists, who are hostile to Nashe Slovo, have advanced the theory that copies of our paper may have been given to the soldiers, at the right moment by the same agent provocateur.

Try, M. Minister, just try to institute, through the services of M. Malvy an investigation along this line! You do not see that anything could be gained by such an investigation? Neither do I. Because – let us spreak frankly – agents provocateur are at least as valuable for the alleged “national defence” as Socialist ministers. And you, Jules Guesde, after you assumed responsibility for the foreign policy of the Third Republic, for the Franco-Russian alliance, and its consequences, for the territorial ambitions of the Czar, and for the aims and methods of this war – it remains for you to accept, along with the symbolic detachments of Russian soldiers, the in no way symbolic exploits of the provocateurs of His Majesty the Czar. At the beginning of the war, when promises were spread with a lavish hand, your closest companion, Sembat, gave the Russian journalists a glimpse of the highly beneficial influence to be exerted by the allied democracies upon the internal regime in Russia. Moreover, this was the supreme argument used persistently but without success by the government socialists of France and Belgium to reconcile the Russian revolutionists with the Czar.

Twenty six months of constant collaboration, of communion with generalissimos, diplomats and parliamentarians, the visits of Viviani and Thomas to Tsarkoe-Selo, in short, twenty six months of incessant “influence” exerted by the allied democracies upon Czarism, have only served to strengthen the most arrogant reaction, moderated only by chaos in the administration and have succeeded in transforming the internal regime of England and France until they have become very similar to that of Russia. As may be seen the generous promises of M. Sembat are cheaper than his coal. [47] The luckless fate of the right of asylum is thus but a striking symptom of police and martinet rule prevalent on both sides of the Channel.

Lloyd George and M. Astride Briand, for whose characterzation I beg to refer you, Jules Guesde, to your articles of earlier days – these two figures best express the spirit of the present war, its rectitude, its morality, with its appetite both class and individual. Can there be a worthier partner for Messrs. Lloyd George and Briand than M. Sturmer, this truly Russian-German, who has made a career by clinging on to the cassocks of the Metropolitans and the skirts of the court bigots? What an incomparable trio! Decidedly, history could have found no better colleagues and chieftains for Guesde the Minister.

How is it possible for an honest socialist not to fight you? You have transformed the Socialist Party into a docile choir which accompanies the choir-masters of capitalist brigandage in an epoch when bourgeois society – whose deadly enemy you, Jules Guesde, used to be – has disclosed its true nature to the very core. From all the events which were prepared by a whole period of world-wide depredation and whose consequences we so often predicted, from all the blood that has been shed, from all the suffering and the misfortune, from all the crimes, from all the rapaciousness and felonies of governments, you, Jules Guesde, you draw but one single lesson for the French proletariat: that Wilhelm II and Franz Joseph are two criminals, who, contrary to Nicholas II and M. Poincaré fail to respect the rules and regulations of international law.

An entire new generation of French working youth, new millions of workers morally awakened for the first time by the thunderbolts of the war, learn about the causes of this catastrophe of the Old World, what the Yellow Book of MM. Delcasse, Poincaré, Briand, want to tell them. And you, old chief of the proletariat, you sink to your knees before this Evangel of the peoples, and you renounce all that you learnt and thought in the school of the class struggle.

French Socialism, with its inexhaustible past, with its magnificent phalanx of fighters and martyrs, has at last found – what a fall, what a disgrace! – a Renaudel to translate, during the most tragic period in the world’s history, the lofty thoughts of the Yellow Book into the language of a press of the same colour.

The socialism of Babeuf, of Saint-Simon, of Blanqui, of Fourier, of the Commune, of Jaurès, and of Jules Guesde – yes, of Jules Guesde too – has at last found its Albert Thomas to consult with Romanov concerning the surest ways of capturing Constantinople; has found its Marcel Sembat to promenade his dilettante nonchalance over the corpses and ruins of French civilization; it has found its Jules Guesde to follow – he too – the chariot of the triumphant Briand.

And you believed, you hoped that the French proletariat, which has been bled white in this senseless and hopeless war by the crimes of the ruling classes, would continue to tolerate quietly, to the end, this shameful pact between official socialism and the worst enemies of the proletariat. You were mistaken. An opposition has come forward. In spite of the martial law and the frenzy of nationalism – which, whatever its form, be it royalist, radical or socialist, always preserves its capitalistic substance – the revolutionary opposition is gaining ground every day.

Nashe Slovo, the paper that you have strangled, lived and breathed in the atmosphere of awakening French socialism. Torn from the soil of Russia by a counter-revolution which triumphed thanks to the aid of the French bourgeoisie – which you, Jules Guesde, are now serving – the group of Nashe Slovo was privileged to echo even if in the incomplete form imposed upon it by the censorship – the voice of the French section of the new International which is raising its head amidst the horrors of fratncidal war.

In our capacity as “undesirable foreigners” who linked our fate with that of the French Opposition, we are proud of having sustained the first blows of the French Government – your government, Jules Guesde!

We have the honour together with Monatte, Merheim, Soumoneau, Rosmer, Bourderon, Loriot, Guilbeaux and so many others, to be accused, all of us, of being pro-German. The Paris weekly of your friend Plekhanov, who shared with you your glory as he shares with you your fall, denounced us week after week to the police of M. Malvy, as agents of the German General Staff. Time was when you knew the value of such accusations, for you yourself had the honour of being their target. Now you stamp your approval upon M. Malvy, for the government of national defence, the reports of the stool-pigeons. Yet my political files contain a very recent prison sentence pronounced upon me, in contumacium, during the war, by a German court, for my pamphlet The War and the International.

But aside from this brutal fact, which ought to make an impression even upon the police brain of M. Malvy, I believe I have the right to assert that we revolutionary internationalists are far more dangerous enemies of German reaction than all the governments of the Allies taken together.

Their hostility to Germany is, at the bottom, nothing but the simple rivalry of the competitor; whereas our revolutionary hatred of its ruling class is indestructible.

Imperialist competition may unite again the enemy brethren of today. Were the plans for the total destruction of Germany to be realized, England and France, after a decade, would again approach the Empire of the Hohenzollerns to defend themselves against the excessive powers of Russia. A future Poincaré would exchange telegrams of congradulation with Wilhelm or with his heir; Lloyd George, in the peculiar language of the clergyman and the boxer, would curse Russia as the bulwark of barbarism and militarism; Albert Thomas, as French ambassador to the Kaiser, would receive lilies of the valley from the hands of the court ladies of Potsdam, as he did do recently from the Grand Duchesses of Tsarkoe-Selo. All the banalities of present day speeches and articles would be warmed over, and M. Renaudel would have to change, in his articles, only the proper names, a task entirely within his capacities.

As for us – we shall remain what we have been and are, sworn enemies of Germany’s rulers, for we hate German reaction with the same revolutionary hatred that we have vowed against Czarism or against French plutocracy. And when you dare, you and your newspaper lackeys to applaud Liebknecht, Mehring, Luxemburg and Zetkin as the intrepid enemies of the Hohenzollerns, you cannot deny that they are of our own stripe, our comrades-in-arms. We are allied with them against you and your masters by the indissoluble unity of the revolutionary struggle.

Perhaps you will console yourself with the thought that we are few in number? Yet we are greater in number than the police of every grade believe. In their professional myopia, they do not see the spirit of revolt that is rising from every hearth of suffering and spreading throughout France, though all of Europe in the workmen’s suburbs and in the countryside, in the shops and in the trenches.

You have incarcerated Louise Saumoneau in one of your prisons; but have you thereby diminished the despair of the women in the land? You can arrest hundreds of Zimmerwaldists after having ordered your press to besmirch them again with police calumnies. But can you return husbands to their wives? Can you restore sons to their mothers, fathers to their children, strength and health to the sick? Can you return to a duped and debilitated people the trust in those who have deceived them?

Jules Guesde, get out of your military automobile, leave the cage in which the capitalist state has imprisoned you. Look about! Perhaps, fate will have pity, for the last time upon your wretched old age, and let you hear the muted rumble of approaching events. We expect them, we summon them, we prepare for them! The fate of France would be too frightful if the Calvary of its working class did not lead to a great revenge, where there will be no room for you, Jules Guesde, and for yours.

Expelled by you, I leave France with a profound faith in our triumph. Over and above your head, I send fraternal greetings to the French proletariat, which is awakening to its grand destiny.

Without you and against you.


Leon Trotsky

Notes For Part III

36. The General Association of German Workers was founded at Leipzig on 23rd March 1863. President: Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864); Vice-President: Dr. Otto Dammer; Secretary: Karl Julius Valteich, a shoemaker(1839–1915).

37. The Paris Commune: Following France’s defeat in the war of 1870–71, the workers of Paris seized power. On March 28, 1871 the Commune was declared. It was drowned in blood May 21̵28, 1871. Some 20,000 to 30,000 Communards, including women and children, were killed, 270 executed after “trial”, 400 jailed, 7,000 transported from the country. The Commune marked the end of monarchy in France and the beginning of the Third Republic. The International Workingmen’s Association (the First International) was founded by Marx and Engels in 1864. In its “first phase” it served as the rallying point of various European national sct ions. After the Paris Commune, in 1872, the centre was moved to New York. It was dissolved in 1876.

38. Chartism: An English movement for parliamentary reform (universal male suffrage, annual parliaments, vote by ballot, payment of MPs, equal electoratc, abolition of property qualification, etc.) began in 1838 as a campaign to collect signatures to the People’s Charter. It had some violent episodes (24 killed at Manchester and Newport on November 3, 1839), had its ups and downs and flared up finally in April 1848.

39. In the Summer of 1866 British Railways tried to import cheap Belgian labour. The First International committed itself to stop blacklegging. (See Minutes of the General Council 1866–68, p.333).

40. Although the Stuttgart Conference of the Second International (1907) was able to achieve unanimity on the attitude to war, on the colonial question it was sharply divided. An anti-colonial resolution was passed 127 to 108, with the Germans (though divided among themselves) voting solidly for the ‘colonialists’.

41. In September 1914, the Cathedral of Rheims, where every French King from Clovis to Louis XVI had been crowned, was shelled by German guns.

42. Lassalle made his famous analysis of the essence of constitutions in a speech to a Berlin audience on April 16, 1862.

43 The Zimmerwald (anti-war) Conference was held in Switzerland in September 1915. Though only 42 delegates attended, (four coaches held them all, Trotsky relates) the Conference laid the foundations for a new, the Third International.

44. The Stuttgart Conference of the Second International took place in 1907, (See Note 40): the Copenhagen Conference in 1910, and the BasIc Conference in November 1912.

45. The International Socialist Bereau was the executive of the Second international established by the Paris Congress of 1900 with Headquarters in Brus- sels.

46. Nashe Slovo (Our Word) published in Paris by unemployed Russian printers from January 29, 1915 to October 15, 1916, succeeded Golos (The Voice) and was succeeded by Nachalo (The Beginning). It ran 213 numbers. Trotsky arrived in France from Switzerland late in Novembr 1914.

47 Marcel Sembat was French Minister of Public Works 1914–1916.

Glossary Of Names

Babeuf, François Noël (Gracchus) (1760–1797): Egalitarian, utopian Socialist in the French Revolution. Planned the “final revolution” called the “Conspiracy of the Equals” for 11th May 1796. Arrested on its eve, was executed a year later.

Ballod, Karl (1864–1931): Bourgeois economist. Professor University of Berlin from 1905. “Expert” on Russian statistics.

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.

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.

Blanqui, Louis Auguste (1805–1881): French revolutionary, a romantic and colourful character, who believed in the dictatorship of the proletariat through a conspiratorial putsch. He was twice condemned to death and spent 33 of his 76 years in prison.

Bourderon, Albert (1858–1930): French Socialist and trade unionist. Joined the Zimmerwald movement, later moved to the Centre and advocated coalition with bourgeois governments.

Brentano, Lujo (1844–1931): German economist, one of the “State” or “Professorial Socialists” (of the Chair – Kathedersozialisten), who founded the Society for Social Politics in 1873 opposed to the Social Democracy.

Briand, Aristide (1862–1932): Once a militant member of the French Socialist Party; fought Millerand and his “Ministerialism” but later became Minister of Education 1906–1909. Expelled from SP, he founded the Republican Socialist Party with Millerand (1911). Premier several times, especially October 1915–March 1917. Delegate to the League of Nations.

Delcasse, Theophile (1852–1923): French Foreign Minister 1898–1905, 1914–1916. Promoted Entente Cordiale with British.

Fourier, François Marie Charles (1772–1837): Great French Utopian Socialist.

Franz-Joseph I (1830–1916): Habsburg emperor of Austria, king of Hungary and king of Bohemia from 1848 until his death in 1916.


Guesde, Jules Basile (1845–1922): Communard. Founder member of French Workers Party 1879. Left-wing socialist. Deputy 1893–1921. Fought reformism and ministerialism. During the War advocated “Sacred Union” with the bourgeoisie. Minister without Portfolio August 1914 to October 1915.

Guilbeaux, Henri (1885–1938): Originally anaracho-syndicalist. Later French Socialist. In War a pacifist, later left Zimmerwaldist. Supported Russian Revolution and attended Comintern Congresses (1st, 2nd and 5th). Sentenced to death in absentia 1919, amnestied 1924. Later became anti-Soviet and anti-Semite.

Heine, Wolfgang (1861–1944): German Social democrat. Lawyer. Prominent revisionist. Social chauvinist during World War I. Prussian Minister for justice November 1918–January 1919.

Hervé, Gustave (1871–1944): Former anarchist. Leader of extreme left inside the French Socialist party and prominent anti-militarist in the Second International until outbreak of World War I. Became rabid French patriot, monarchist and all-round reactionary.

Hohenzollerns: 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.

Irmer, Georg (1853–1931): German imperialist. Member of colonial service and later journalist. Governor of the Marshall Islands 1894–1897. German Consul-General in Australia 1907–1911.

Jaurès, Jean Auguste (1859–1914): French Socialist leader. Founder and editor L’Humanité 1904–1914. Right Winger, Leading figure in the 2nd International. Anti-militarist. Assassinated by French officers on 31st July 1914, the eve of the War.

Lassalle, Ferdinand (l825–1864): 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.

Lloyd-George, David (1863–1945): Welsh M.P. Premier of Great Britain 1916–1922.

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.

Mehring, Franz (1846–1919): German scholar and historian. In later life joined the Social Democracy and was leading member of the left wing. Spartacist and founder German CP. Author of biography of Karl Marx, and history of Social Democracy. Died soon after assassination of Luxemburg and Liebknecht.

Nicholas II (1868–1918): Tsar of Russia from 1894 until his abdication during the February Revolution in March 1917. Executed in 1918.

Plekhanov, George Valentinovich (1856–1918): Pioneer Russian Marxist. Patriot in World War I, and opposed Russian Revolution 1917.

Poincaré, Raymond Nicholas Landry (1860–1934): Premier of France 1912, 1922–24, 1926–29. President 1913–1920. Militarist.

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 1917, 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.

Rappoport, Charles (1865–1941): Member Russian “People’s Will”, later the Social Democracy. Emigrated to France, member Socialist Party and later Communist Party.

Renaudel, Pierre (1871–1935): Left-wing French Socialist. During War led Majority. Deputy 1914–1919 and after 1924.

Rosmer, Alfred (1877–1964): French syndicalist. Leader CGT minority. Zimmerwaldist. Joined French CP 1920. Member ECCI, 1920. Expelled from French CP 1924. Close friend of Trotsky till the end.

Saint-Simon, Claude Henri (1760–1825): French Utopian Socialist.

Saumoneau, Louise (1875–1949): French socialist feminist of working class origin. Jailed for her opposition to the First World War.

Sembat, Marcel (1862–1922): French Socialist. Deputy from 1893. Chauvinist in War. Joined Cabinet of National Defence as Minister of Public Works August 1914–September 1917.

Thomas, Albert (1878–1932): French Socialist. Deputy 1910–1914, 1919–1921. Minister 1914–1917. Visited Russia in Spring 1917 in attempt to get revolutionary Russia to resume the War.

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

Zetkin, Clara (1857–1933): Left-Wing German Social Democrat. Organizer of women’s movement. Founder German CP. Active in Comintern Executive, Member of Reichstag.

The War and the International Index

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Last updated on: 23 July 2018