The Metal Workers Meeting


I remember the first large membership meeting of the Petrograd metal workers in 1913. Two hours after the slate of our candidates to the Union committee was adopted by the meeting (which was at that time an extraordinary success) Comrade Lenin was already in possession of a congratulatory telegram from the local metal workers on the matter. Comrade Lenin was living at that time thousands of miles away, but he was the very soul of proletarian Petrograd. The same thing was happening as in 1906-7, when Comrade Lenin resided in Finland, at Kuokalla, and we undertook weekly pilgrimages in order to receive his advice. He was actually guiding the labour movement at Petrograd from this little village in Finland. He was now doing the same thing from Cracow, guiding not only the Petrograd, but the whole Russian Bolshevik movement.

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I should like to add a few words about Lenin’s attitude on the war. He had long ceased to believe in the European Social Democracy; he knew well that something was rotten in Denmark. He had long been saying about official European Social Democrats that they were carrying on a contraband trade in rotten opportunist goods. When the war broke out we were living in a god-forsaken little mountain village in Galicia. I remember having had a bet with him. I said ‘You will see, the German Social Democrats will not dare vote against the war, but will abstain in the vote on the war credits.’ Comrade Lenin replied: ‘No, they are not such scoundrels as all that. They will not, of course, fight the war, but they will, to ease their conscience, vote against the credits lest the working class rise up against them.’ In this case Lenin was wrong, and so was I. Neither of us had taken the full measure of the flunkeyism of the social patriots. The European Social Democrats proved complete bankrupts. They all voted for the war credits. When the first number of the Vörwarts, the organ of the German Social Democrats, arrived with the news that they had voted the war credits, Lenin at first refused to believe. ‘It cannot be,’ he said, ‘it must be a forged number. Those scoundrels, the German bourgeoisie, have specially published such a number of the Vörwarts in order to compel us also to go against the International.’ Alas, it was not so. It turned out that the social patriots really had voted the war credits, When Lenin saw it, his first word was: ‘The Second International is dead.’

At that time those words had the effect of a bursting bomb. At present we all see clearly that this is so, the Second International is dead. It is now as obvious to us as the ABC; but think only how great the prestige of this International had been before the war. On paper, at least, it had counted several million members and contained in its ranks such authorities as Kautsky, Vandervelde, Vail]ant, Guesde, Plekhanov. And all of a sudden a Russian Marxist gets up and announces to the whole world, ‘The Second International is dead, and let it rest in peace.’ The howling and the protests of the acknowledged 1eaders of the Second International against the impertinent Bolsheviks knew no bounds. It was monstrous, they declared, that Lenin should so insult the entire Socialist world. Herr Scheidemann says so even now. Recently at Berlin the Imperial Chancellor met with the leaders of all parties over the supplementary treaty between Russia and Germany. Herr Ebert, Scheidemann's henchman, was the only one to vote against this treaty, because forsooth, Lenin and his friends were disgracing the banner of Socialism in Russia. Scheidemann knows very well that he has a serious enemy in the person of Lenin. He knows well that if he is one day to hang on a lamp-post-it will come to this, I assure you (Applause)-he will be owing it, to a very large extent, to Comrade Lenin.

Lenin was one of the authors of the main thesis of the resolution of the Stuttgart Congress of the Second International. Jointly with Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin offered the Stuttgart Congress a resolution to the effect that should an imperialist war begin, our business would be to organise a revolution, that is, a civil war. After protracted arguments, the commission of the Congress adopted his resolution, but in different words. Lenin told us at the time how he had been arguing with Bebel about the formulation. According to Lenin, Bebel had accepted the idea, but demanded great care in formulating it in order not to prematurely ‘get all the geese in a dither’.

Then the imperialist war actually came, but when Lenin now repeated the Stuttgart resolution, when he now submitted to the leaders of the Second International Bebel’s I.Q.U., the leaders only waved it impatiently aside and passed to the order of the day, that is, to their respective capitalist governments.

I remember the first manifesto of our party on the war. Naturally, it was drawn up principally by Lenin, as were all our most important party documents. When we translated it into various European languages and when it was read by various comrades, even the Swiss internationalist Grimm and the Rumanian revolutionist Rakovsky, who is now in our ranks, were very indignant. They were almost horror-struck when they read the words that the imperialist war must be transformed into a civil war.

Today, it is ABC. We are all doing it, we are all transforming the imperialist war in action into a civil war, but at that time it seemed monstrous. We were told that only an anarchist could preach such things and war was virtually declared upon us. Even at Zimmerwald not only moderate men, but also men like Rakovsky and the Italian Serrati were bitterly opposed to us, so that very fierce conflicts ensued at various stages. I well remember how the hotheaded Rakovsky nearly took off his coat to fight Lenin and me for our opinion that Martov was an agent of the bourgeoisie. ‘How dare you say such things,’ they shouted at us; ‘we have known Martov for the last twenty years.’ But we replied: ‘We know Martov as well as you and we are certain that all that is honest among the Russian workers will follow us and will oppose the war, while Martov is defending bourgeois views.’

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