Of course the official Swiss Social Democratic Party looked askance on this work of Lenin’s. Gruelich and Co. would declare that Lenin was corrupting the entire working class movement by his Russian ‘anarchism’. Indeed Comrade Lenin was ‘corrupting’ it as much as he could. (Applause and laughter.) The philistine Swiss government was then ready to expel Lenin as an undesirable alien, but now we hear from our Swiss Socialist Comrade Moor that the Swiss government has placed in the museum as an historical document the paper which it exacted from us as a guarantee that we would behave ‘decently’ in Switzerland. I shall not be surprised if the Swiss bourgeoisie, who are showing their lakes and mountains for a franc per head, should soon charge five francs for showing the autograph signature of Lenin.
At that time, in the years 1915-17, he led a rather secluded life in Switzerland. The war and the collapse of the [Second] International had deeply affected him, and many, who knew him before, were surprised at the change which had taken place in him since the war. He never was very tender towards the bourgeoisie, but since the war his hatred of the bourgeoisie became concentrated and sharp like a dagger. He ,seemed to have changed even in his appearance.
He then lived in Zurich, in the poorest quarter, in the house of a shoemaker, in a sort of garret. He chased, as it were, after every proletarian in order to proclaim to him that the present war was an imperialist slaughter, that the honour of the proletariat demanded that a war against this war be fought to a finish, that the arms must not be laid down until the working class had risen and destroyed the imperialist bandits. (Prolonged applause.)
The Bureau of the Zimmerwald Left, in which Lenin played the principal part, issued in German and French several leaflets, pamphlets, and three numbers of the periodical, Verbote. It goes without saying that Lenin’s propaganda was not to the taste of the international bourgeoisie. The German bourgeois professors would write entire books to announce that a certain lunatic had arisen, who was preaching a mad propagandistic doctrine. But we laughed and said, ‘Why then do you write books and articles, why concern yourselves with the ravings of a lunatic?
Comrade Lenin quietly pursued his labours, and now things have reached such a pass that the German bourgeoisie has had to sign a treaty with Comrade Lenin as representing hundreds of millions of peasants and workers of entire Russia. We shall yet, comrades, see the moment when our proletariat through its leader Lenin will dictate its will to old Europe, when Comrade Lenin will make treaties with the government of Karl Liebknecht, and when Lenin will help the German workers to draw up the first Socialist decree in Germany. (Applause.)
In March 1917, Comrade Lenin returned to Russia. You remember comrades, the witches’ sabbath which brake out when Lenin and we his disciples, came from abroad through Germany. What a howl there was about the celebrated ‘sealed train’. As a matter of fact, Lenin entertained towards German imperialism a hatred as fierce as towards the other imperialisms. At the beginning of the war the Austrian government had arrested Lenin, and he spent two weeks in a Galician house of detention. When a prominent member of Scheidemann’s party wanted to enter our carriage (which, as a matter of fact, was not sealed) in order to welcome us, we told him unequivocally, on Lenin’s suggestion, that we never discuss with traitors, and would give him a thrashing if he came to us.
The Mensheviks and Social Revolutionists who at first proudly resisted, afterwards used the same means of getting into Russia as we did. So far as Lenin was concerned, the matter was simple; all bourgeois governments are bandits; we have no choice, we can’t go to Russia in any other way.
Next: The July Days