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Socialist Appeal, 2 April 1938

Lenin and Zinoviev

Socialism and War

(August 1915)

From Socialist Appeal (Supplement), Vol. II No. 14, 2 April 1938, p. 3-A.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following is an extract from the pamphlet Socialism and War by Lenin and Zinoviev, written in Switzerland in 1915. When it was written, its two authors were part of a tiny handful of Socialists withstanding the wave of Chauvinism that overcame the leaders of the Socialist Parties of all countries who led the workers to the slaughter under the slogan “defense of the fatherland.” Two years later the simple ideas put forth in this pamphlet found living expression in the Russian revolution and the emergence of the first Workers State. Lenin died in 1924. His co-author, Zinoviev, first chairman of the Communist International, was shot by Joseph Stalin as a “fascist spy” in 1936. Leninism is synonymous with the most uncompromising resistance to imperialist war. Stalinism, its negation, today stands for support of imperialist slaughter under the hypocritical cloak of “democracy vs. Fascism” just as the Second International, in 1914–18, supported the war under the slogan of “Democracy vs. Kaiserism” or “German culture vs. Czarist barbarism.”

“War is politics continued by other (i.e., forcible) means.”

This famous dictum belongs to one of the profoundest writers on military questions, Clausewitz. Rightly, the Marxists have always considered this axiom as the theoretical foundation for their understanding of the meaning of every war. It is from this very standpoint that Marx and Engels regarded wars.

Apply this idea to the present war (the world war). You will find that for decades, for almost half a century, the governments and the ruling classes of England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Russia, conducted a policy of colonial robbery, of suppressing labor movements, of oppressing foreign nations. Such a policy, and no other one, is being pursued in the present war. Notably in Austria and Russia the policy of’ both peace and war times consists in the enslavement of nations and not in their liberation.

National Awakening

On the contrary, in China, Persia; India and other dependent nations we note in the last decade a policy of national awakening, tens and hundreds of millions of people striving to liberate themselves from under the yoke of the reactionary “great” nations. War growing out of this historic basis, even at the present time, can be of a bourgeois progressive nature, a war for national liberation.

One glance at the present war, conceived, as a continuation of the policy of the “great” nations and their fundamental classes, shows that the opinion which justifies “defense of the fatherland” in the present war is false, hypocritical and in glaring contradiction to the historic facts ...

What Is Social-Chauvinism?

Social-chauvinism is adherence to the idea of “defending the fatherland” in the present war. From this idea follows repudiation of the class struggle in war time, voting for military appropriations, etc. In practice the social chauvinists conduct an anti-proletarian bourgeois policy, because in practice they insist not on the “defense of the fatherland” in the sense of fighting against the oppression of a foreign nation, but upon the “right” of one or the other of the “great” nations to rob the colonies and oppress other peoples. The social-chauvinists follow the bourgeoisie in deceiving the people by saying that the war is conducted for the defense of the freedom and the existence of the nations; thus they put themselves on the side of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat.

To the social-chauvinists belong those who justify and idealize the government and the bourgeoisie of one of the belligerent groups of nations, as well as those who, like Kautsky, recognize the equal right of the Socialists of all belligerent nations to “defend the fatherland.” Social-chauvinism, being in practice a defense of the privileges, prerogatives, robberies and violence of “one’s own” (or any other) imperialist bourgeoisie, is a total betrayal of all Socialist conviction and a violation of the decisions of the International Socialist Congress in Basle (1912, Ed.) ...

Mass Suffering Increased

The war has undoubtedly created the acutest crises and has incredibly intensified the sufferings of the masses. The reactionary character of this war, the shameless lie of the bourgeoisie of all countries which covers its predatory aims with “national” ideology, all this inevitably creates, on the basis of an objective revolutionary situation, revolutionary sentiments in the masses. Our duty is to help make these sentiments conscious, to deepen them and give them form. The only correct expression of this task is the slogan “Turn the imperialist war into civil war.” All consistent class struggle in time of war, all “mass action” earnestly conducted must inevitably lead to this. We cannot know whether in the first or in the second imperialist war between the great nations; whether during or after it, a strong revolutionary movement will flare up. Whatever the case may be, it is our absolute duty systematically and unflinchingly to work in that particular direction ...

A mass sentiment for peace often expresses the beginning of a protest, an indignation and a consciousness of the reactionary nature of the war. It is the duty of all Social-Democrats to take advantage of this sentiment. They will take the most ardent part in every movement and in every demonstration made on this basis, but they will not deceive the people by assuming that in the absence of a revolutionary movement it is possible to have peace without annexations, without oppression of nations, without robbery, without planting the seed of new wars among the present governments and the ruling classes. Such deception would only play into the hands of the secret diplomacy of the belligerent countries and their counter-revolutionary plans. Whoever wishes a durable and democratic peace must be for civil war against the governments and the bourgeoisie.

Socialism and War, August, 1915

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