[Classics] Socialism and War

3. The Restoration of the International

How should the International be restored? But first, a few words about how the International should not be restored.

The method of the social-chauvinists and of the “centre”

Oh, the social-chauvinists of all countries are big “internationalists”! Since the very beginning of the war they have been burdened with care for the International. On the one hand, they assure us that the   talk about the collapse of the International is “exaggerated”. Actually, nothing exceptional has occurred. Listen to Kautsky: simply, the International is a “peacetime instrument”; naturally, this instrument was found to be somewhat not up to the mark in wartime. On the other hand, the social-chauvinists of all countries have found a very simple—and chiefly, an international – way out of the situation that has arisen. A simple way out: it is only necessary to wait until the war ends; but until the war ends the Socialists of each country must defend their fatherland and support “their” government; when the war ends—mutual “amnesty”, admission that everybody was right, that in peacetime we live like brothers, but in wartime we—on the basis of such and such resolutions—call upon the German workers to exterminate their French brothers, and vice versa.

On this Kautsky and Plekhanov and Victor Adler and Heine are equally agreed. Victor Adler writes that “when we have passed through this hard time, out first duty will be to refrain from pointing to the mote in each other’s eye.” Kautsky asserts that “up till now no voices of serious Socialists have been heard from any side that rouse apprehensions” concerning the fate of the International. Plekhanov says that “it is unpleasant to grasp the hands” (of the German Social-Democrats) “that reek of the blood of the innocently killed.” But he at once goes on to propose an “amnesty”: “here it will be quite appropriate,” he writes, “to subordinate the heart to the mind. For the sake of the great cause, the International will have to take into consideration even belated remorse.” Heine in Sozialistische Monatshefte describes Vandervelde’s behaviour as “courageous and proud”, and sets him up—an example for the German Lefts.

In short, whet the war ends, appoint, commission consisting of Kautsky and Plekhanov, Vandervelde and Adler and a “unanimous” resolution in the spirit of mutual amnesty will be drawn up in a trice. The dispute will be safely covered up. Instead of helping the workers to understand what has occurred, they will deceive them with sham, paper “unity”. The amalgamation of the social-chauvinists and hypocrites of all countries will be described as the restoration of the International.

We must not conceal from ourselves the fact that the danger of such a “restoration is very great. The social-chauvinists of all countries are equally interested in it All of them are equally unwilling that the masses of the workers themselves should try to grasp the issue: Socialism or nationalism? All of them are equally interested in coveting up each other’s sins. None of them is able to propose anything except what is proposed by that virtuoso in “international” hypocrisy, Kautsky.

And yet, this danger is scarcely realised. During the year of war we have witnessed a number of attempts to restore international connections. We will not speak of the conferences in London and Vienna, at which downright chauvinists assembled to help the General Staffs and the bourgeoisie of their “fatherlands”. We have in mind the conferences in Lugano[1] and Copenhagen[2] , the International Women’s = Conference[3] and the International Youth Conference.[4] These assemblies were inspired by the best wishes. But they totally failed to see the above-mentioned danger. They did not lay down a fighting line for internationalists. They did not point out to the proletariat the danger that threatens it from the social-chauvinists’ method of “restoring” the International. At best, they confined themselves to repeating the old resolutions without indicating to the workers that unless a struggle is waged against the social-chauvinists, the cause of Socialism is hopeless. At best they marked time

The state of affairs among the opposition

There can be no doubt whatever that what interests all internationalists most is the state of affairs among the German Social-Democratic opposition. Official German Social-Democracy, which was the strongest and the leading party in the Second International, struck the heaviest blow at the international workers’ organisation. But at the same time, it was in German Social-Democracy that the strongest opposition was found. Of all the big European patties, it was in the German party that the loud voice of protest of the comrades who have remained loyal to the banner of Socialism was first raised. It was with joy that we read   the magazines Lichtstrahlen and Die Internationale. With still greater joy we learned of the distribution in Germany of secretly printed manifestoes, as for example the manifesto entitled: The Chief Enemy Is at Home. This showed that the spirit of Socialism is alive among the German workers, That there are still people in Germany capable of upholding revolutionary Marxism.

The split in the present-day socialist movement has been most strikingly revealed within German Social-Democracy. Here we very distinctly see three trends: the opportunist-chauvinists, who have nowhere sunk to such a degree of renegacy as they have in Germany; the Kautskyan “Centre”, which has here proved to be incapable of playing any other role than that of servitors of the opportunists; and the Left—who are the only Social-Democrats in Germany.

Naturally, what interests us most of all is the state of affairs among the German Left. In it we see our comrades, the hope of all the internationalist elements.

What is the state of affairs in it?

The magazine Die Internationale was quite right when it wrote that the German Left was still in a state of ferment, that considerable regroupings still lie ahead in it, that there are more resolute and less resolute elements within it.

We Russian internationalists do not in the least, of course, claim the right to interfere in the internal affairs of our comrades the German Lefts. We are aware that they alone are fully competent to determine their methods of fighting the opportunists in conformity with the conditions of time and place. Only, we deem it our tight and duty frankly to express our opinion on the state of affairs.

We are convinced that the author of the leading article in the magazine Die Internationale was profoundly right when he asserted that the Kautskyan “Centre” is doing more harm to Marxism than avowed social-chauvinism. Whoever now obscures disagreements, whoever now, in the guise of Marxism, preaches to the workers what Kautskyism is preaching, is lulling the workers, is more harmful than the Südekums and Heines, who put the question   bluntly and compel the workers to try to grasp the issue.

The fact that Kautsky and Haase are permitting themselves lately to demur against the “official bodies” should mislead nobody. The disagreements between them and the Scheidemanns are not on fundamentals. he former believe that Hindenburg and Mackensen are already victorious and that they can already permit themselves the luxury of protesting against annexations. The latter believe that Hindenburg and Mackensen are not yet victorious and that, therefore, it is necessary “to bold out to the end”.

Kautskyism is waging only a sham fight against the “official bodies” precisely in order to be able, after the war, to obscure the fundamental dispute for the workers and to gloss the matter over with the 1,001st puffy resolution couched in a vaguely “Leftist” spirit, in the drafting of which the diplomats of the Second International are such masters.

It is quite understandable that in their arduous struggle against the “official bodies” the German opposition should also make use of this unprincipled opposition raised by Kautskyism. But what must remain the touchstone for every interntionalist is—hostility towards neo-Kautskyism. Only he is a genuine internationalist who fights Kautskyism, who understands that, fundamentally, the “Centre”, even after the sham turn taken by its leaders, remains an ally of the chauvinists and opportunists.

Of enormous importance is our attitude towards the wavering elements in the International in general. These elements—mainly Socialists of the pacifist shade—are to be found both in the neutral countries and in some of the belligerent countries (in England, for example, the Independent Labour Party).[5] These elements can be our fellow travellers. Rapprochement with them in opposition to the social-chauvinists is necessary. But it must be borne in mind that they are only fellow travellers, that on the chief and fundamental issues, with the restoration of the International, these elements will go not with us, but against us, they will go with Kautsky, Scheidemann, Vandervelde and Sembat. At international conferences we must not limit out programme to what is acceptable to these elements. If we do, we will become the captives of the   wavering pacifists. This is what happened, for example, at the International Women’s Conference in Berne. The German delegation, which supported Comrade Clara Zetkin’s point of view, actually played the part of the “Centre” at this conference. The Women’s Conference said only what was acceptable to the delegates from the opportunist Dutch party led by Troelstra, and to the delegates of the Independent Labour Party, which—we will not forget this—at the London conference of “Entente” chauvinists voted for Vandervelde’s resolution. We express our greatest respect for the I.L.P. for the brave struggle it has been waging against the British government during the war. But we know that this party has not adopted the Marxist stand. We, however, are of the opinion that the chief task of the Social-Democratic opposition at the present moment is to raise the banner of revolutionary Marxism, to tell the workers firmly and definitely how we regard imperialist wars, to issue the watchword of mass revolutionary action, i.e., transform the epoch of imperialist wars into the beginning of the epoch of civil wars.

In spite of everything, there are revolutionary Social-Democratic elements in many countries. They are to be found in Germany, and in Russia, and in Scandinavia (the influential trend of which Comrade Höglund is the representative), and in the Balkans (the party of the Bulgarian = “Tesnyaki”[6] ), and in Italy, and in England (a section of the British Socialist Party)[7] , and in France (Vaillant himself has admitted in L’Humanité that he has received letters of protest from internationalists, but he has not published one of them in full), and in Holland (the Tribunists)[8] , etc. To rally these Marxist elements—however small their numbers may be at the beginning—to recall in their name the now forgotten words of genuine Socialism, to call upon the workers of all countries to break with the chauvinists and to come under the old banner of Marxism—such is the task of the day.

Conferences with so-called programmes of “action” have amounted up till now only to the proclamation, more or less fully, of the programme of simple pacifism. Marxism is not pacifism. It is necessary, of course, to fight for the speediest termination of the war. But only if a revolutionary   struggle is called for does the demand for “peace acquire proletarian meaning. Without a series of revolutions, so-called democratic peace is a philistine utopia. The purpose of a teal programme of action would be served only by a Marxian programme, which gave the masses a full and clear explanation of what has occurred, which explained what imperialism is and how to combat it, which openly stated that it was opportunism that led to the collapse of the Second International, which openly called for the building of a Marxist International without and against the opportunists. Only. such a programme as would show that we have confidence in ourselves, confidence in Marxism, that we proclaim a life-and-death struggle against opportunism would sooner or later ensure for us the sympathy of the genuine proletarian masses. 

The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and the Third International

The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party split away from its opportunists long ago. The Russian opportunists have now, in addition, become chauvinists. This only strengthens our opinion that a split from them in the interests of Socialism is essential. We are convinced that the Social- Democrats’ present disagreements with the social-chauvinists are in no way less wide that the Socialists’ disagreements with the Anarchists when the Social-Democrats split away from the latter. The opportunist Monitor rightly said in Preussische Jahrbücher that the present unity was to the advantage of the opportunists and the bourgeoisie because it compelled the Lefts to submit to the chauvinists and prevents the workers from grasping the issue and from forming their own genuinely workers’, genuinely socialist party. We are most firmly convinced that in the present state of affairs, a split from the opportunists and chauvinists is the primary duty of the revolutionary—just as a split from the yellows, the anti-Semites, the liberal workers’ unions, etc., was essential precisely in the interests of the speediest enlightenment of the backward workers and of drawing them into the ranks of the Social-Democratic Party.

In our opinion, the Third International should be built on precisely such a revolutionary basis. For our Party, the   question as to whether it is expedient to break with the social-chauvinists does not exist. Pot it, this question has been irrevocably settled. The only question that exists for our Party is whether this can be achieved in the nearest future on an international scale.

It is quite understandable that to bring about an international Marxist organisation, there must be a readiness to form independent Marxist parties in different countries. Germany, being the country with the oldest and strongest working-class movement, is of decisive importance. he immediate future will show whether conditions have already ripened for the formation of a new, Marxist International. If they have, our Party will gladly join such a Third International that will be purged of opportunism and chauvinism. If they have not, it will show that a more or less prolonged evolution is needed for this purging. In that case, our Party will be the extreme opposition within the old International—until a base is formed in different countries for an international working men’s association that stands on the basis of revolutionary Marxism.

We do not, nor can we, know, what developments will take place in the international arena within the next few years. But there is one thing we know for certain, and of which we are unshakably convinced, namely, that our Party, in our country, among our proletariat, will work tirelessly in the above-mentioned direction, and by all its daily activities will build up the Russian section of the Marxist International.

In Russia too we have no lack of avowed social-chauvinists and “Centre” groups. These people will fight against the formation of a Marxist International. We know that Plekhanov, in principle, stands on the same ground as Südekum and is already stretching out a hand to him. We know that the so-called “Organisation Committee” led by Axelrod is preaching Kautskyism on Russian soil. In the guise of working-class unity, these people are preaching unity with the opportunists and, through them, with the bourgeoisie. But everything we know about the present working-class movement in Russia fully convinces us that the class-conscious proletariat in Russia will, as hitherto, remain with our Party.


[1] This refers to a conference of Italian and Swiss Socialists held in Lugano, Switzerland, on September 27, 1914.—Ed.

[2] The Copenhagen Conference of Socialists in neutral countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Holland) was held on January 17–18, 1915 for the purpose of restoring the Second International. The conference resolved to appeal, through the parliamentary representatives of the Socialist Parties in the neutral countries, to their governments to act as intermediaries between the belligerent powers and secure the cessation of the war.—Ed.

[3] The International Socialist Women’s Conference on the attitude to be taken towards the war was held in Berne, Switzerland, on March 26–28, 1915. he conference was convened on the initiative of the women’s organisations connected with the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. in conjunction with Clara Zetkin, the leader of the international women’s movement. Twenty-five delegates were present at the conference, representing England, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Russia and Poland. Among the delegates from Russia were N.K. Krupskaya and Inessa Armand.

A report of the proceedings of the International Socialist Women’s Conference was published as a supplement to the newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 42, of June 1, 1915.—Ed.

[4] The International Socialist Youth Conference on the attitude to be taken towards the war was held in Berne, Switzerland, on April 4-6, 1915. Representatives were present from youth organisations of ten countries: Russia, Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Italy, Denmark and Sweden. The conference decided to celebrate International Youth Day every year and elected an international Bureau of Socialist Youth which, in conformity with the conference’s decision, began to publish the magazine Jugend-lnternationale (Youth International), to which Lenin and Karl Liebknecht contributed.—Ed.

[5] The Independent Labour Party was formed in 1893 under such leaders as James Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald. It claimed to be politically independent of the bourgeois parties; actually it was “independent of Socialism, but dependent upon liberalism” (Lenin). At the beginning of the imperialist world war (1914–18) the Independent Labour Party issued a manifesto against the war on August 13, 1914, but later, at the London Conference of Entente Socialists in February 1915, its representatives supported the social-chauvinist resolution adopted by that conference. From that time onward, the I.L.P. leaders, under cover of pacifist phrases, adopted a social-chauvinist position. With the formation of the Communist International in 1919, the I.L.P. leaders, yielding to the pressure of the rank and file, which had swung to the left, resolved to withdraw from the Second International. In 1921, the I.L.P. joined the so-called wo-and-a-Half International, and after its collapse re-affiliated to the Second International.—Ed.

[6] Tesnyaki—the revolutionary Social-Democratic Labour Party of Bulgaria, was formed in 1903 after a breakaway from the Social-Democratic Party. Dimitr Blagoyev, founder and leader of the esnyaki, was succeeded by his followers Georgi Dimitrov and Vasil Kolarov. During 1914–18, the Tesnyaki opposed the imperialist war. In 1919 it affiliated to the Communist International and formed the Communist Party of Bulgaria.—Ed.

[7] The British Socialist Party was formed in 1911. It conducted Marxist propaganda and agitation and was described by Lenin as “not opportunist”, and as “really independent of the Liberals”. Its small membership and isolation from the masses lent the party a somewhat sectarian character.

During the imperialist world war (1914–18), two trends were revealed in the party: one openly social-chauvinist, headed by Henry Hyndman, and the other internationalist, headed by Albert Inkpin and others. In April 1916 a split took place. Hyndman and his supporters found themselves in the minority and withdrew from the party. From that moment the internationalists assumed the leadership of the British Socialist Party, which later initiated the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920.—Ed.

[8] The Tribunists—a Left group in the Social-Democratic Labour Party of Holland which in 1907 published the newspaper De ribune. In 1909, the Tribunists were expelled from the Social-Democratic Labour Party of Holland and organised an independent party (the Social-Democratic Party of Holland). The Tribunists were not a consistently revolutionary party, but they represented the Left wing of the working-class movement of Holland.

In 1918 the Tribunists formed the Communist Party of Holland. From 1909, De Tribune was the organ of the Social-Democratic Party of Holland, and from 1918 it was the organ of the Communist Party. Prom the beginning of the 30s to 1940 it came out under the title of Folksdagblad (The People’s Daily).—Ed.

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