But, of course, all these petty incidents are of no particular importance. I only mention them to show you how dead, how stagnant was the European Social Democracy at the beginning of the war. No one was prepared to fight. All had become habituated to the old grooves of legalism and parliamentarianism; all the old leaders had faith in ‘law’, and made a fetish of it. Tremendous efforts were needed to make an impression even among the Zimmerwaldians. I remember a clash at Zimmerwald between Lenin and Ledebour. Ledebour argued: ‘It is all right for you here living abroad to issue appeals for a civil war, I should like to see how you do it, living in Russia.’ If Ledebour still remembers those words, I think he must feel very much ashamed of them now. But Comrade Lenin cooly replied to him: ‘When Marx was drawing up his Communist Manifesto he also was living abroad, and only narrowminded philistines could reproach him for that. I now live abroad, because I was sent here by the Russian workers, but when the time arrives, we shall know how to stand at our posts....’ And our Comrade Lenin kept his word.
Yes, at the beginning of the war Lenin found very little sympathy even among those Socialists who were opposed to the war. But how is it now?
At present we can say without exaggeration that all that is honest in the International regards Lenin as its leader and banner-bearer. Lazzari, the leader of the Italian workers, who has grown grey under the Red banner, and who at Zimmerwald opposed Lenin, is now going to prison for three years for circulating Lenin’s appeals in Italy. Mehring, Clara Zetkin, the best among the German internationalists, who used to fight Lenin in the old days, now render him the tribute of their greatest respect. Or listen to what has been said about Lenin by men like Gorter, Hoeglund, Blagoev, Loriot and Serrati. There can be no greater satisfaction for Comrade Lenin than the knowledge that he, by his work, has captivated the minds and hearts of such prominent leaders of labour in various countries.
Comrade Lenin became the leader of the Third International, which is now being born. At first many virtuous self-styled Socialists ridiculed the idea that Lenin should put forward his candidature for the leadership of the Third International, saying that he is aspiring to the honour of being the successor of Bakunin. But who will laugh now when we say that the leader of the Third International is none other than Lenin? The Conciliationists have no inclination to laugh now. They would rather cry, because they know that the Third International is a living fact, although owing to the state of siege it has not come into existence formally. And they also know that the new International has in the person of Lenin a sufficiently strong leader, far-seeing, courageous, such as the working class International properly needs.
The part played by Comrade Lenin from the beginning of the war has been absolutely exceptional. He was the first to begin collecting circles of Internationalists, and it was a remarkable sight how he was devoting his inexhaustible energy to this work in Switzerland. He lived first at Berne and then Zurich. The Swiss Social Democratic Party was at that time infected by opportunism and defencism, and only a small group of workers rallied round us. Comrade Lenin would spend much time and strength in order to organise some ten or twenty individuals among the Zurich working-class youth. I lived at that time in another Swiss town, but I well remember the enthusiasm which Comrade Lenin devoted to this work so small in its scope. He used to write us numberless letters, urging us all to work among the Swiss, and rejoiced like a child when he was able to announce that at Zurich he had succeeded in getting into the organisation of the Left Social Democrats seven young proletarians, and, might, perhaps, succeed in getting an eighth.
Next: Swiss Social Democracy