The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party)


16. The international obligations of the working class of Russia are precisely now coming to the forefront with particular force.

Only lazy people do not swear by internationalism these days. Even the chauvinist defencists, even Plekhanov and Potresov, even Kerensky, call themselves internationalists. It becomes the duty of the proletarian party all the more urgently, therefore, to clearly, precisely and definitely counterpoise internationalism in deed to internationalism in word.

Mere appeals to the workers of all countries, empty assurances of devotion to internationalism, direct or indirect attempts to fix a “sequence” of action by the revolutionary proletariat in the various belligerent countries, laborious efforts to conclude “agreements” between the socialists of the belligerent countries on the questionof the revolutionary struggle, all the fuss over the summoning of socialist congresses for the purposeof a peace campaign, etc., etc.—no matter how sincere the authors of such ideas, attempts, and plans may be – amount, as far as their objectivesignificance is concerned, to mere phrase-mongering, and at bestare innocent and pious wishes, fit only to conceal the deceptionof the people by the chauvinists. The Frenchsocial-chauvinists, who are the most adroit and accomplished in methods of parliamentary hocus-pocus, have long since broken the record for ranting and resonant pacifist and internationalist phrases coupled withthe incredibly brazen betrayal of socialism and the International, the acceptance of posts in governments which conduct the imperialist war, the voting of credits or loans(as Chkheidze, Skobelev, Tsereteli and Steklov have been doing recently in Russia), opposition to the revolutionary struggle in their own country, etc., etc.

Good people often forget the brutal and savage setting of the imperialist world war. This setting does not tolerate phrases, and mocks at innocent and pious wishes.

There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and that is—working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one’s owncountry, and supporting (by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid) this struggle, this, and only this, line, in everycountry without exception.

Everything else is deception and Manilovism.

During the two odd years of the war the international socialist and working-class movement in everycountry has evolved three trends. Whoever ignores realityand refuses to recognise the existence of these three trends, to analyse them, to fight consistently for the trend that is really internationalist, is doomed to impotence, helplessness and errors.

The three trends are:

1). The social-chauvinists, i.e., socialists in word and chauvinists in deed. People who support “defence of the fatherland” in an imperialist war (and above all in the present imperialist war).

These people are our class enemies. They have gone over to the bourgeoisie.

They are the majority of the official leaders of the official Social-Democratic parties in all countries—Plekhanov and Co. in Russia, the Scheidemanns in Germany, Renaudel, Guesde and Sembat in France, Bissolati and Co. in Italy, Hyndman, the Fabians and the Labourites (the leaders of the “Labour Party”) in Britain, Branting and Co. in Sweden, Troelstra and his party in Holland, Stauning and his party in Denmark, Victor Berger and the other “defenders of the fatherland” in America, and so forth.

2) The second trend, known as the “Centre”, consists of people who vacillate between the social-chauvinists and the true internationalists.

The “Centre” all vow and declare that they are Marxists and internationalists, that they are for peace, for bringing every kind of “pressure” to bear upon the governments, for “demanding” in every way that their own government should “ascertain the will of the people for peace”, that they are for all sorts of peace campaigns, for peace without annexations, etc., etc. – and for peace with the social-chauvinists. The “Centre” is for “unity”, the Centre is opposed to a split.

The “Centre” is a realm of honeyed petty-bourgeois phrases, of internationalism in word and cowardly opportunism and fawning on the social-chauvinists in deed.

The crux of the matter is that the “Centre” is not convinced of the necessity for a revolution against one’s own government; it does not preach revolution; it does not carry on a whole-hearted revolutionary struggle; and in order to evade such a struggle it resorts to the tritest ultra-“Marxist”-sounding excuses.

The social-chauvinists are our class enemies, they are bourgeois within the working-class movement. They represent a stratum, or groups, or sections of the working class which objectively have been bribed by the bourgeoisie (by better wages, positions of honour, etc.), and which help their own bourgeoisie to plunder and oppress small and weak peoples and to fight for the division of the capitalist spoils.

The “Centre” consists of routine-worshippers, eroded by the canker of legality, corrupted by the parliamentary atmosphere, etc., bureaucrats accustomed to snug positions and soft jobs. Historically and economically speaking, they are not a separate stratum but represent only a transition from a past phase of the working-class movement—the phase between 1871 and 1914, which gave much that is valuable to the proletariat, particularly in the indispensable art of slow, sustained and systematic organisational work on a large and very large scale—to a new phase that became objectively essential with the outbreak of the first imperialist world war, which inaugurated the era of social revolution.

The chief leader and spokesman of the “Centre” is Karl Kautsky, the most outstanding authority in the Second International (1889–1914), since August 1914 a model of utter bankruptcy as a Marxist, the embodiment of unheard-of spinelessness, and the most wretched vacillations and betrayals. This “Centrist” trend includes Kautsky, Haase, Ledebour and the so-called workers’ or labour group in the Reichstag; in France it includes Longuet, Pressemane and the so-called minorities (Mensheviks) in general; in Britain, Philip Snowden, Ramsay MacDonald and many other leaders of the Independent Labour Party, and some leaders of the British Socialist Party; Morris Hillquit and many others in the United States; Turati, Tréves, Modigliani and others in Italy; Robert Grimm and others in Switzerland; Victor Adler and Co. in Austria; the party of the Organising Committee, Axelrod, Martov, Chkheidze, Tsereteli and others in Russia, and so forth.

Naturally, at times individuals unconsciously drift from the social-chauvinist to the “Centrist” position, and vice versa. Every Marxist knows that classes are distinct, even though individuals may move freely from one class to another; similarly, trends in political life are distinct in spite of the fact that individuals may change freely from one trend to another, and in spite of all attempts and efforts to amalgamate trends.

3) The third trend, that of the true internationalists, is best represented by the “Zimmerwald Left”. (We reprint as a supplement its manifesto of September 1915, to enable the reader to learn of the inception of this trend at first hand.)

Its distinctive feature is its complete break with both social-chauvinism and “Centrism”, and its gallant revolutionary struggle against its own imperialist government and its own imperialist bourgeoisie. Its principle is: “Our chief enemy is at home.” It wages a ruthless struggle against honeyed social-pacifist phrases (a social-pacifist is a socialist in word and a bourgeois pacifist in deed; bourgeois pacifists dream of an everlasting peace without the overthrow of the yoke and domination of capital) and against all subterfuges employed to deny the possibility, or the appropriateness, or the timeliness of a proletarian revolutionary struggle and of a proletarian socialist revolution in connection with the present war.

The most outstanding representative of this trend in Germany is the Spartacus group or the Internationale group, to which Karl Liebknecht belongs. Karl Liebknecht is a most celebrated representative of this trend and of the new, and genuine, proletarian International.

Karl Liebknecht called upon the workers and soldiers of Germany to turn their guns against their own government. Karl Liebknecht did that openly from the rostrum of parliament (the Reichstag). He then went to a demonstration in Potsdamer Platz, one of the largest public squares in Berlin, with illegally printed leaflets proclaiming the slogan “Down with the Government!” He was arrested and sentenced to hard labour . He is now serving his term in a German convict prison, like hundreds, if not thousands, of other true German socialists who have been imprisoned for their anti-war activities.

Karl Liebknecht in his speeches and letters mercilessly attacked not only his own Plekhanovs and Potresovs (Scheidemanns, Legiens, Davids and Co.), but also his own Centrists, his own Chkheidzes and Tseretelis (Kautsky, Haase, Ledebour and Co.).

Karl Liebknecht and his friend Otto Rühle, two out of one hundred and ten deputies, violated discipline, destroyed the “unity” with the “Centre” and the chauvinists, and went against all of them . Liebknecht alone represents socialism, the proletarian cause, the proletarian revolution. All the rest of German Social-Democracy, to quote the apt words of Rosa Luxemburg (also a member and one of the leaders of the Spartacus group), is a “stinking corpse”.

Another group of true internationalists in Germany is that of the Bremen paper Arbeiterpolitik.

Closest to the internationalists in deed are: in France, Loriot and his friends (Bourderon and Merrheim have slid down to social-pacifism), as well as the Frenchman Henri Guilbeaux, who publishes in Geneva the journal Demain ; in Britain, the newspaper The Trade Unionist, and some of the members of the British Socialist Party and of the Independent Labour Party (for instance, Russel Williams, who openly called for a break with the leaders who have betrayed socialism), the Scottish socialist school teacher MacLean, who was sentenced to hard labour by the bourgeois government of Britain for his revolutionary fight against the war, and hundreds of British socialists who are in jail for the same offence. They, and they alone, are internationalists in deed. In the United States, the Socialist Labour Party and those within the opportunist Socialist Party who in January 1917 began publication of the paper, The Internationalist ; in Holland, the Party of the “Tribunists” which publishes the paper De Tribune (Pannekoek, Herman Gorter, Wijnkoop, and Henriette Roland-Holst, who, although Centrist at Zimmerwald, has now joined our ranks); in Sweden, the Party of the Young, or the Left[Swedish Social Democrats], led by Lindhagen, Ture Nerman, Carleson, Strölm and Z. Hömlglund, who at Zimmerwald was personally active in the organisation of the “Zimmerwald Left”, and who is now in prison for his revolutionary fight against the war; in Denmark, Trier and his friends who have left the now purely bourgeois “Social-Democratic” Party of Denmark, headed by the Minister Stauning; in Bulgaria, the “Tesnyaki”; in Italy, the nearest are Constantino Lazzari, secretary of the party, and Serrati, editor of the central organ, Avanti!; in Poland, Radek, Hanecki and other leaders of the Social-Democrats united under the “Regional Executive”, and Rosa Luxemburg, Tyszka and other leaders of the Social-Democrats united under the “Chief Executive”[executive bodies of the Social democrats in the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuana]; in Switzerland, those of the Left who drew up the argument for the “referendum” (January 1917) in order to fight the social-chauvinists and the “Centre” in their own country and who at the Zurich Cantonal Socialist Convention, held at Töss on February 11, 1917, moved a consistently revolutionary resolution against the war; in Austria, the young Left-wing friends of Friedrich Adler, who acted partly through the Karl Marx Club in Vienna, now closed by the arch-reactionary Austrian Government, which is ruining Adler’s life for his heroic though ill-considered shooting at a minister, and so on.

It is not a question of shades of opinion, which certainly exist even among the Lefts. It is a question of trend . The thing is that it is not easy to be an internationalist in deed during a terrible imperialist war. Such people are few; but it is on such people alone that the future of socialism depends; they alone are the leaders of the people, and not their corrupters.

The distinction between the reformists and the revolutionaries, among the Social-Democrats, and socialists generally, was objectively bound to undergo a change under the conditions of the imperialist war. Those who confine themselves to “demanding” that the bourgeois governments should conclude peace or “ascertain the will of the peoples for peace”, etc., are actually slipping into reforms. For, objectively, the problem of the war can be solved only in a revolutionary way.

There is no possibility of this war ending in a democratic, non-coercive peace or of the people being relieved of the burden of billions paid in interest to the capitalists, who have made fortunes out of the war, except through a revolution of the proletariat.

The most varied reforms can and must be demanded of the bourgeois governments, but one cannot, without sinking to Manilovism and reformism, demand that people and classes entangled by the thousands of threads of imperialist capital should tear those threads. And unless they are torn, all talk of a war against war is idle and deceitful prattle.

The “Kautskyites”, the “Centre”, are revolutionaries in word and reformists in deed, they are internationalists in word and accomplices of the social-chauvinists in deed.