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The Militant, 30 July 1932


Forgotten Words

Lenin and the War Danger

Instructions to the Hague Anti-War Conference Delegation

(December 1922)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 31 (Whole No. 127), 30 July 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


On the question of combating the danger of war in connection with the Hague Conference, I think that the greatest difficulty is to overcome the preconceived idea that this question is quite simple, clear and comparatively easy to solve. “Our reply to war will be a strike or a revolution,”say the reformist leaders when addressing the working class. And very often the apparent radicalism of this statement satisfies and appeases the workers and peasants.

Perhaps the most correct approach to this problem would be to begin with a sharp refutation of all such opinions; to declare that especially now, after the re. cent war, only the most hopelessly stupid or confirmed hypocrites can believe that such an answer to the question of the struggle against war would have the slightest effect anywhere; to declare that it is impossible to “answer” war with a revolution, in the simplest and most literal meaning of the term.

It is necessary to explain the circumstances and the secrecy in which war is hatched and the helplessness of the ordinary workers’ organizations, even though they may call themselves revolutionary, in the face of the actual approach of war.

It is necessary to explain concretely over and over again just what happened during the last war, and why it could not have happened otherwise than it did. “Defense of fatherland”

Particularly is it necessary to explain the circumstance that the “defense of the fatherland” becomes the inevitable question which the great majority of the workers will inevitably answer to the advantage of the bourgeoisie.

Therefore, the elucidation of the question of “the defense of the fatherland” in the first place, in the second place the explanation in this connection of the question of “defeatism”, and finally, the explanation of the only possible means of struggle against war, namely, the formation and conservation of an illegal organization of all revolutionists participating in war – for a prolonged work against war, all these things must be brought to the front.

The “boycott of war!” – is a stupid phrase. The Communists must be ready to enter any reactionary war.

It is desirable, through, let us say, examples of German literature before the war, and in particular, through the examples of the Basle Congress of 1912 to point out very concretely that mere theoretical recognition of the fact that war is a crime, that war is not permissible for socialists, etc., means nothing, that these prove to be empty phrases because there is nothing concrete in such a presentation of the question. We give to the masses no really vital presentation of the question as to how war may break out and does break out. On the contrary, the press of the dominating class obscures the issues by spreading lies about it in vast numbers of copies against which the weak socialist press is entirely powerless, the more so, that in the time of peace they maintain a radically wrong attitude toward this very question. The Communist press in the majority of countries also disgraces itself.

I think that our delegates at the international conference of co-operators and trade unionists should divide these questions among themselves and examine all those sophisms with which it has attempted to justify war at the present time, in the most careful detail.

It may be that the most effective means of attracting the masses to warfare are just these sophisms with which the bourgeois press operates on them, and the most important circumstance explaining our own powerlessness against war consists in the fact that we either have not examined these sophisms beforehand, or that we ourselves have spent our energy getting off cheap, boastful and empty phrases to the effect that we will not allow war, that we fully understand the criminality of war, etc., in the spirit of the Basle manifesto of 1912.

Task at Congress

It seems to me that if we will have a few people who are able to make speech, es against war in various languages at the Hague Conference, then oui most important job will be to refute the idea that those participating in the conference are real opponents of war, that they understand how war may and can burst upon them at the most unexpected moment, that they have the least comprehension of the means of combating war, or that they are in any way capable of undertaking an intelligent and effective course in combating war.

In connection with the recent experience of the war we must clear up that great mass of theoretical and practical questions which arose the day after the declaration of war, and which made it impossible for the great majority of those summoned to apply themselves to these problems with clarity of judgment and without prejudice.

I think that the elucidation of this question demands exceptionally detailed consideration, and from two angles:

In the first place, relating and analyzing what happened during the recent war and declaring to all those present that they do not know or that, they pretend to know it, and at the same time shut their eyes to the very core of the question without the knowledge of which there can be no talk of any struggle against war. On this point I think we must examine all the points of view, all the shades of opinion which arose at that time among the Russian socialists in regard to the war. It must be pointed out that these viewpoints arose not by chance, but were generated in the very nature of war. It must be proved that without an analysis of these opinions, and without an explanation of the inevitability of their arising and of decisive important in any consideration of the question of the struggle against war, there can be no discussion of preparation for war or even of any intelligent attitude towards it.

In the second place – we must take examples from conflicts now going on even though they may be of the most insignificant nature, and point out from these examples how war may break out any day from the sport of England and France over some details of the treaty with Turkey, or between America and Japan over some nonsensical disagreement on some question about the Pacific Ocean, or between any of the great powers ove some colonial quarrel or from some dispute over their customs or general trade policy, etc., etc. It seems to me, that if there is the slightest doubt as regards the possibility of completing an entire speech against war at the Hague, then it is necessary to invent a whole series of clever devices in order to include at least the most important things in the speech and then to print in brochure form what has not been included in the speech. We must be prepared for being cut short by the president.

I think that for this purpose there must be invited to join the delegation not only capable orators pledged to make speeches, setting forth the entire case against war, that is, developing all the important arguments and all the necessary conditions for the struggle against war – but in addition there must be people speaking all three of the most important languages who will devote their time to conversations with the delegates clearing up just how far they have understood the basic arguments and, in so far as there is any necessity, in bringing up other arguments or in pointing out the necessary examples.

It may be that in certain questions only actual examples drawn from the last war will have any serious effect. It may be that in certain other questions only the explanation of the present conflicts between the governments and their connection with a possible armed conflict will carry any weight.

Errors of Communists

On the question of the struggle against war, I am reminded that there are a whole series of declarations by our Communist deputies, both in Parliament and in speeches outside of Parliament, which contain the most amazingly mistaken and superficial ideas on the subject. I think that we must take a decisive and relentless stand against all declarations of this nature, especially if they have been made after the war, mentioning the name of every such orator. You may soften all you like, when it is necessary, your denunciation of such an orator, but it is impossible to pass by a single such instance in silence, because a light-minded attitude toward this question is so mischievous that it permeates everything else, and must on no account be treated with indulgence.

There have been a succession of unpardonably stupid and hare-brained decisions of workers’ congresses. We must gather at once all the material on this question and consider in the greatest detail every part and particle of this material, and prepare our “strategy” for the congress.

Not only will no mistakes be permissible, but we shall refuse to tolerate any substantial defects in the handling of this question.

December 4, 1922


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