Basel Congress

To Prevent War

Manifesto of the International Congress at Basel

Source: British Socialist, 25 December 1912, pp. 556-560 (1,994 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The International, at its Congresses at Stuttgart and Copenhagen, laid down the following principle for the war against war:—

In case of war being imminent, the working classes and their Parliamentary representatives in the countries concerned shall be bound, with the assistance of the International Socialist Bureau, to do all they can to prevent the breaking out of war, using for this purpose the means which appear to them the most efficacious, and which must naturally vary according to the acuteness of the struggle of classes, and to the general political conditions.

“In case war should break out notwithstanding, they shall be bound to intervene for its being brought to a speedy end, and to employ all their forces for utilising the economical and political crisis created by the war, in order to rouse the masses of the people and to hasten the downfall of the predominance of the capitalist class.”

Recent events have more than ever made it the duty of the proletariat to use all their energy in following out their organised action. On the one hand the mad rivalry in armaments has intensified the high prices of food, thereby increasing class distinctions and incensing the working classes. The workers want to limit this system of extravagance and consequent unrest. On the other hand the recurring threats of war are getting more and more critical. The nations of Europe are always on the point of being driven at each other without the slightest reason of real peoples’ interests for such attempts on reason and humanity.

The Balkan crisis, which is already responsible for such terrible horrors, would mean the most fearful danger for civilisation and the workers if allowed to spread. It would at the same time be the most shameful deed in the world’s history on account of the crying disproportion between the vastness, of the catastrophe and the slight importance of the interests involved.

Therefore the Congress notes with satisfaction the complete unanimity of the Socialist Parties and the trade unions of all lands in the war against war. As the workers of all lands arose simultaneously against Imperialism, each section of the International, however, opposing to its own Government the resistance of the proletariat and mobilising the public opinion of its own nation against all war-like lusts, a grand co-operation between the workers of all nations resulted, which has already contributed very much towards securing the world’s peace. The fear on the part of the ruling classes of a proletarian revolution following in the wake of a world-wide war has shown itself a considerable guarantee of peace.

The Congress, therefore, urges the Social-Democratic Parties to continue their action by all the means which appear likely to be effectual, and points out, in this common action, to each Social-Democratic, Party its special task.

The Social-Democratic Parties in the Balkan Peninsula have a difficult task. The Powers of Europe, by a systematic neglect of all reforms in Turkey, have contributed to insupportable national, economic and political conditions which necessarily led up to the war. With heroic courage the Social-Democratic Parties of the Balkans have demanded, as against the exploitation of these conditions in the interest of the dynasties and the bourgeoisie, the formation of a democratic federation. The Congress urges them to continue this admirable line of action, and believes that the Socialist Party of the Balkans will do everything after the war to prevent the fruits of the war, bought with such terrible sacrifices, being abused by, the dynasties, militarists, and capitalist classes of the Balkan States, for their own selfish interests.

Above all, the Congress invites the Balkan Socialists to oppose everything likely to lead to a renewal of the old animosities among Servians, Bulgarians, Roumanians, and Greeks, as well as to all violence against those Balkan peoples who are at present in the other camp, the Turks and the Albanians. It is the duty of the Socialists of the Balkans to fight against any oppression of these peoples, and to proclaim, as against the national Chauvinism which has been let loose, the brotherhood of all the Balkan peoples, including Turks, Albanians and Roumanians.

The Social-Democratic Party of Austria-Hungary, Croatia and Slavonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, have the duty of continuing their effectual action against an attack by the Danube monarchy on Servia, and, as hitherto, to oppose the plan of robbing Servia of the fruits of the war by force of arms, turning it into an Austrian colony, and involving the peoples of Austria-Hungary itself and all the European nations with them in the greatest danger for the sake of dynastic interests. In the same way the Social-Democratic Parties of Austria-Hungary will continue to fight in the future to secure that the portion of the South Slav people within the boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which is ruled by the House of Habsburg, should conquer the right of democratic self-government.

Special attention has to be paid by the Social-Democratic Parties of Austria-Hungary and by the Socialists of Italy to the Albanian question. The Congress recognises the right of the Albanian people to autonomy, but protests against Albania being made, under the cloak of autonomy, the victim of the lust of dominion on the part of Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Congress sees here a danger not only for Albania itself, but a menace to peace between Austria-Hungary and Italy at no very distant time. Only as an autonomous member of a democratic Balkan Federation can Albania lead a really independent life. Therefore, the Congress calls upon the Social-Democrats of Austria-Hungary and Italy to oppose any attempt on the part of their Governments to draw Albania into their sphere of influence, and to continue their efforts towards the tightening of the peaceful relations between Austria-Hungary and Italy.

The Congress hails with great joy the protest strike of the Russian workers as a sign that the proletariat of Russia and Poland is beginning to recover from the blows dealt to it by the Czarist counter-revolution. For therein the Congress sees the strongest security against the criminal intrigues of Czarism, which, after sanguinarily crushing the peoples in its own land, and innumerable times betraying the Balkan peoples and giving them over to their enemies, now vacillates between fear of the consequences of a war for itself and fear of the pressure of a Nationalist movement that it has itself created. But if Czarism now attempts again to pose as the liberator of the Balkan nations, it is only in order to reconquer, under this hypocritical pretext, the predominance over the Balkans by bloody warfare. The Congress expects that the urban and rural proletariat of Russia, Finland and Poland, which is growing in strength, will rend this web of lies and oppose itself to every belligerent adventure of Czarism, fight against every attempt on the part of the latter whether directed against Armenia or Constantinople, and concentrate its whole force upon the renewal of the revolutionary struggle for freedom against Czarism. For Czarism, the hope of all the reactionary Powers of Europe, is the bitterest enemy of democracy, and the whole International must consider it one of its grandest tasks to lead towards liberation the peoples under its sway.

But the most important task of the International falls on the working class of Germany, France, and Great Britain to demand from their Governments an undertaking to refuse all support to either Austria or Russia, and to abstain from all intervention in the Balkan troubles, and in every respect to observe a strict neutrality. A war between the three great nations over an outlet to the sea, concerning which Austria and Servia are in dispute, would be criminal madness. The workers of Germany and France do not recognise that any secret treaties necessitate the duty of interference in the Balkan conflict.

If, however, as a consequence of the military defeat of Turkey, the downfall of the Osman power in Asia Minor became inevitable, it would be the duty of British, French, and German Socialists to oppose with all their strength the policy of conquest in Asia Minor, since the result would inevitably be a world war.

The Congress is of opinion that the greatest danger to-European peace is the artificially fostered animosity between Great Britain and Germany. The Congress, therefore, congratulates the working classes of the two countries upon their efforts to improve the situation. It believes that the best means of removing friction would be an understanding between Germany and Great Britain concerning the arrest of the increase of their respective fleets, and the suppression of the right of capture at sea. The Congress invites the Socialists of Great Britain and Germany to continue their agitation to realise this understanding. To overcome all outstanding differences between Germany on the one side and Great Britain on the other would be to remove the greatest danger to international peace; would weaken the mighty position of Czardom now trying to strengthen itself by means of these differences, and would make impossible an attack on Servia by Austria, and would finally secure peace to the world. To this end, above all, the efforts of the international movement must be directed.

The Congress takes note of the fact that the whole International is unanimous in its principles regarding foreign policy. It urges the workers of all lands to oppose to capitalist Imperialism the international solidarity of the proletariat. It warns the ruling classes of all States against intensifying by warlike expeditions the widespread misery caused by the capitalist method of production, and emphatically demands peace. Let the Governments not forget that in the present condition of Europe and the state of mind of the working class they cannot let loose a war without danger to themselves. It must be remembered that the Franco-German War resulted in the revolutionary movement of the Commune, that the Russo-Japanese War put into motion the revolutionary movement in Russia, that the competition in naval and military armaments has in England and on the Continent increased class conflicts and caused enormous strikes. It would be madness if the Governments did not comprehend that the mere notion of a world-wide war will call forth strong indignation and protest among the workers. The latter consider it a crime to shoot each other down in the interest and for the profit of capitalism, and for the sake of dynastic ambition and of diplomatic secret treaties.

If the Governments interrupt the possibility of the normal development of the people, and thereby provoke desperate steps, they will have to take the whole responsibility for the crisis thus brought about.

The International will redouble its efforts to prevent this crisis; it will protest with an ever greater emphasis, and organise its propaganda more and more widely and energetically. Therefore, the Congress instructs the International Bureau to follow up the events with all the more attention, and, come what may, to preserve and strengthen the communication between the proletarian parties.

The proletariat is conscious of being at this moment the bearer of the whole future of humanity.

In order to prevent the destruction of the flower of all peoples, which is threatened by all the horrors of wholesale slaughter, famine and pestilence, the proletariat will put forth its whole energy.

So the Congress turns to you, proletarians and Socialists of all lands, that in this decisive hour you should let your voice be heard! Make known your will in every way, and everywhere; lift your protest with full force in the Parliaments; gather together in masses for great demonstrations; make the utmost use of every means which the organisations and the strength of the proletariat place in your hands. Take care that the Governments should always have before their eyes, alert and impassioned, the will of the proletariat for peace! Oppose thus to the capitalistic world of exploitation and wholesale slaughter the proletarian world of peace and the brotherhood of the peoples!