Social Democracy 1912

Manifesto of the International Socialist Congress at Basel

Source: The Bolsheviks and War, Sam Marcy;
First Published: Extraordinary International Socialist Congress at Basel, November 24-25, 1912. Vorwärts Publishers, Berlin, 1912, pp. 23-27.

At its congresses at Stuttgart and Copenhagen the International formulated for the proletariat of all countries these guiding principles for the struggle against war:

If a war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the working classes and their parliamentary representatives in the countries involved supported by the coordinating activity of the International Socialist Bureau to exert every effort in order to prevent the outbreak of war by the means they consider most effective, which naturally vary according to the sharpening of the class struggle and the sharpening of the general political situation.

In case war should break out anyway it is their duty to intervene in favor of its speedy termination and with all their powers to utilize the economic and political crisis created by the war to arouse the people and thereby to hasten the downfall of capitalist class rule.

More than ever, recent events have imposed upon the proletariat the duty of devoting the utmost force and energy to planned and concerted action. On the one hand, the universal craze for armaments has aggravated the high cost of living, thereby intensifying class antagonisms and creating in the working class an implacable spirit of revolt; the workers want to put a stop to this system of panic and waste. On the other hand, the incessantly recurring menace of war has a more and more inciting effect. The great European peoples are constantly on the point of being driven against one another, although these attempts are against humanity and reason cannot be justified by even the slightest pretext of being in the interest of the people.

If the Balkan crisis, which has already caused such terrible disasters, should spread further, it would become the most frightful danger to civilization and the proletariat. At the same time it would be the greatest outrage in all history because of the crying discrepancy between the immensity of the catastrophe and the insignificance of the interests involved.

It is with satisfaction that the Congress records the complete unanimity of the Socialist parties and of the trade unions of all countries in the war against war.

The proletarians of all countries have risen simultaneously in a struggle against imperialism; each section of the international has opposed the resistance of the proletariat to the government of its own country, and has mobilized the public opinion of its nation against all bellicose desires. Thus there resulted the grandiose cooperation of the workers of all countries which has already contributed a great deal toward saving the threatened peace of the world. The fear of the ruling class a of a proletarian revolution as a result of a world war has proved to be an essential guarantee of peace.

The Congress therefore calls upon the Social-Democratic parties to continue their action by every means that seems appropriate to them. In this concerted action it assigns to each Socialist party its particular task.

The Social-Democratic parties of the Balkan peninsula have a difficult task. The Great Powers of Europe, by the systematic frustration of all reforms, have contributed to the creation of unbearable economic, national and political conditions in Turkey which necessarily had to lead to revolt and war. Against the exploitation of these conditions in the interest of the dynasties and the bourgeois classes, the Social-Democratic parties of the Balkans, with heroic courage, have raised the demand for a democratic federation. The Congress calls upon them to persevere in their admirable attitude; it expects that the Social-Democracy of the Balkans will do everything after the war to prevent the results of the Balkan War attained at the price of such terrible sacrifices from being misused for their own purposes by dynasties, by militarism, by the bourgeoisie of the Balkan states greedy for expansion. The Congress, however, calls upon the Socialists of the Balkans particularly to resist not only the renewal of the old enmities between Serbs, Bulgars, Rumanians, and Greeks, but also every violation of the Balkan peoples now in the opposite camp, the Turks and the Albanians. It is the duty of the Socialists of the Balkans, therefore, to fight against every violation of the rights of these people and to proclaim the fraternity of all Balkans peoples including the Albanians, the Turks, and the Rumanians, against the unleashed national chauvinism.

It is the duty of the Social-Democratic parties of Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Slavonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue with all their power their effective action against an attack upon Serbia by the Danubian monarchy. It is their task to continue as in the past to oppose the plan of robbing Serbia of the results of the war by armed force, of transforming it into an Austrian colony, and of involving the peoples of Austria-Hungary proper and together with them all nations of Europe in the greatest dangers for the sake of dynastic interests. In the future the Social-Democratic parties of Austria-Hungary will also fight in order that those sections of the South-Slavic people ruled by the House of Hapsburg may obtain the right to govern themselves democratically within the boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy proper.

The Social-Democratic parties of Austria-Hungary as well as the Socialists of Italy must pay special attention to the Albanian question. The Congress recognizes the right of the Albanian people to autonomy but it protests against Albania, under the pretext of autonomy, becoming the victim of Austro-Hungarian and Italian ambitions for domination. The Congress sees in this not only a peril for Albania itself, but, in a short time, a menace to the peace between Austria-Hungary and Italy. Albania can lead a truly independent life only as an autonomous member of a democratic Balkan federation. The Congress therefore calls upon the Social-Democrats of Austria-Hungary and Italy to combat every attempt of their governments to envelop Albania in their sphere of influence and to continue their efforts to strengthen the peaceful relations between Austria-Hungary and Italy.

It is with great joy that the Congress greets the protest strikes of Russian workers as a guarantee that the proletariat of Russia and of Poland is beginning to recover from the blows dealt it by the czarist counterrevolution. The Congress sees in this the strongest guarantee against the criminal intrigues of czarism, which, after having drowned in blood the peoples of its own country, after having betrayed the Balkan peoples themselves innumerable times and surrendered them to their enemies, now vacillates between the fear of the consequences that a war would have upon it and the fear of the pressure of a nationalist movement which it has itself created. However, when czarism now tries to appear as the liberator of the Balkan nations, it is only to reconquer its hegemony in the Balkans in a bloody war under this hypocritical pretext. The Congress expects that the urban and rural proletariat of Russia, Finland, and Poland, which is growing in strength, will destroy this web of lies, will oppose every belligerent venture of czarism, will combat every design of czarism, whether upon Armenia or upon Constantinople, and will concentrate its whole force upon the renewal of the revolutionary struggle for emancipation from czarism. For czarism is the hope of all the reactionary powers of Europe, the most terrible enemy of the democracy of the peoples dominated by it; and the achievement of its destruction must be viewed as one of the foremost tasks of the entire International.

However, the most important task within the action of the International devolves upon the working class of Germany, France, and England. At this moment, it is the task of the workers of these countries to demand of their governments that they refuse any support either to Austria-Hungary or Russia, that they abstain from any intervention in the Balkan troubles and maintain absolute neutrality. A war between the three great leading civilized peoples on account of the Serbo-Austrian dispute over a port would be criminal insanity. The workers of Germany and France cannot concede that any obligation whatever to intervene in the Balkan conflict exists because of secret treaties.

However, on further development, should the military collapse of Turkey lead to the downfall of the Ottoman rule in Asia Minor, it would be the task of the Socialists of England, France, and Germany to resist with all their power the policy of conquest in Asia Minor, which would inevitably lead in a straight line to war. The Congress views as the greatest danger to the peace of Europe the artificially cultivated hostility between Great Britain and the German Empire. The Congress therefore greets the efforts of the working class of both countries to bridge this hostility. It considers the best means for this purpose to be the conclusion of an accord between Germany and England concerning the limitation of naval armaments and the abolition of the right of naval booty. The Congress calls upon the Socialists of England and Germany to continue their agitation for such an accord.

The overcoming of the antagonism between Germany on the one hand, and France and England on the other, would eliminate the greatest danger to the peace of the world, shake the power of czarism which exploits this antagonism, render an attack of Austria-Hungary upon Serbia impossible, and secure peace to the world. All the efforts of the International, therefore, are to be directed toward this goal.

The Congress records that the entire Socialist International is unanimous upon these principles of foreign policy. It calls upon the workers of all countries to oppose the power of the international solidarity of the proletariat to capitalist imperialism. It warns the ruling classes of all states not to increase by belligerent actions the misery of the masses brought on by the capitalist method of production. It emphatically demands peace. Let the governments remember that with the present condition of Europe and the mood of the working class, they cannot unleash a war without danger to themselves. Let them remember that the Franco-German War was followed by the revolutionary outbreak of the Commune, that the Russo-Japanese War set into motion the revolutionary energies of the peoples of the Russian Empire, that the competition in military and naval armaments gave the class conflicts in England and on the Continent an unheard-of sharpness, and unleashed an enormous wave of strikes. It would be insanity for the governments not to realize that the very idea of the monstrosity of a world war would inevitably call forth the indignation and the revolt of the working class. The proletarians consider it a crime to fire at each other for the profits of the capitalists, the ambitions of dynasties, or the greater glory of secret diplomatic treaties.

If the governments cut off every possibility of normal progress, and thereby drive the proletariat to desperate steps, they themselves will have to bear the entire responsibility for the consequences of the crisis brought about by them.

The International will redouble its efforts in order to prevent this crisis; it will raise its protest with increasing emphasis and make its propaganda more and more energetic and comprehensive. The Congress therefore commissions the International Socialist Bureau to follow events with much greater attentiveness and no matter what may happen to maintain and strengthen the bonds uniting the proletarian parties.

The proletariat is conscious of being at this moment the bearer of the entire future of humankind. The proletariat win exert all its energy to prevent the annihilation of the flower of all peoples, threatened by all the horrors of mass murder, starvation, and pestilence.

The Congress therefore appeals to you, proletarians and Socialists of all countries, to make your voices heard in this decisive hour! Proclaim your will in every form and in all places; raise your protest in the parliaments with all your force; unite in great mass demonstrations; use every means that the organization and the strength of the proletariat place at your disposal! See to it that the governments are constantly kept aware of the vigilance and passionate will for peace on the part of the proletariat! To the capitalist world of exploitation and mass murder, oppose in this way the proletarian world of peace and fraternity of peoples!