International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald
First Published: Sotsial-Demokrat, Nos. 456, October 11, 1915.
Source: Bolsheviks and War, Lessons for today's anti-war movement, by Sam Macey 1985;
Translated: by Sam Macey.
Proletarians of Europe!
The war has now lasted for more than a year. The battlefields are strewn with millions of dead, millions have been crippled and doomed to remain a burden to themselves and to others for the rest of their lives. The war has caused terrific devastations, it will result in an unheard-of increase in taxes.
The capitalists of all countries, who at the price of proletarian blood, have been reaping enormous profits during the war, demand of the masses that they strain all their efforts and hold out to the end. They say: "The war is necessary for the defense of the fatherland, it is waged in the interests of democracy." They lie! In not a single country did the capitalists start the war because the independence of their country was threatened, or because they wanted to free an oppressed people. They have led the masses to slaughter because they want to oppress and to exploit other peoples. They were unable to agree between themselves as to how to divide the peoples of Asia and Africa that were still independent; they were lying in ambush for each other, watching for a chance to snatch from each other the spoils previously seized. It is not for their own freedom, nor for the freedom of other peoples, that the masses are bleeding in all parts of the immense slaughterhouse called Europe. This war will bring the proletariat of Europe and the peoples of Asia and Africa new burdens and new chains.
There is, therefore, no reason why this fratricidal war should be waged to the end, to the last drop of blood; on the contrary, every effort must be strained to put an end to it.
The time for this has already come. What you must demand first is that your Socialist Deputies, those whom you delegated to parliament to fight against capitalism, against militarism, against the exploitation of the people, do their duty. All of them, with the exception of the Russian, Serbian, and Italian comrades, and with the exception of Comrades Liebknecht and Ruhle, have trampled upon that duty; they have either supported the bourgeoisie in their rapacious war, or else have vacillated and have shirked responsibility. You must demand that they either resign from their seats or that they use the platform. Of Parliament to make clear to the people the nature of the present war and that outside of parliament they help the working class to resume its struggle. Your first demand must be this: refusal of all war credits, withdrawal from the cabinets in France, Belgium, and England.
But that is not all! The Deputies cannot save you from that rabid beast, the World War, that subsists on your blood. You must act yourselves. You must make use of all your organizations, of your entire press, to rouse the broadest masses groaning under the burden of the war to revolt against it. You must go out into the streets and throw into the face of the ruling classes your rallying cry: "Enough of slaughters!" Let the ruling classes remain deaf to it, the discontented masses will hear it and they will join you and take a part in the struggle.
The demand must immediately and energetically be made that the war be stopped, a loud protest must be raised against the exploitation of one people by another, against the division of any people among several states. All this will take place if any capitalist government comes out victorious and is able to dictate the terms of peace to the others. If we allow the capitalists to conclude peace in the same manner as they started the war without the participation of the masses, the new conquests will not only strengthen reaction and arbitrary police rule in the victorious country, but they will sow the seeds of new wars even more horrible.
The overthrow of the capitalist governments – this is the object which the working class in all belligerent countries must set themselves, because only then will an end be put to the exploitation of one people by another, an end put to wars, when capital has been deprived of the power of disposing of the life and death of peoples. Only peoples who shall be freed of want and misery, of the rule of capital, will be in a position to settle their mutual relations, not by war, but by friendly agreement.
Great is the goal we set ourselves, great are the efforts that will be required to attain it, great will be the sacrifices before it is attained. Long will be the road to victory. Methods of peaceful pressure will be insufficient to overcome the enemy. But it is only when you are ready to make for your own liberation, in the struggle against capital, part of those innumerable sacrifices that you have been making on the battlefield for the interests of capital, only then will you be able to put an end to the war, to lay a firm foundation for a lasting peace, which will transform you from slaves of capital into free people.
But if the deceitful phrases of the bourgeoisie and of the Socialist parties that support it succeed in restraining you from energetic struggle, and if you confine yourselves to pious wishes because you are unwilling to proceed to an attack and to sacrifice your bodies and souls for the great cause, then capital will go on shedding your blood and wasting your belongings at its own discretion. In all countries the number of those who think as we do grows daily. It is by their order that we have assembled representatives of various countries to address to you this call to battle. We shall carry on this struggle with mutual support as there are no interests to divide us. It is essential that the revolutionary workers of each country deem it their duty and honorable distinction to serve as a model for others, a model of energy and self-sacrifice. Not timid expectation as to whither the struggle of others will lead, but struggle in the first ranks – that is the road that leads to the formation of a powerful International which will put an end to war and capitalism.