The Significance of Fraternisation

Published in Pravda No. 43, May 11 (April 28), 1917.

The capitalists either sneer at the fraternisation of the soldiers at the front or savagely attack it. By lies and slander they try to make out that the whole thing is “deception” of the Russians by the Germans, and threaten—through their generals and officers—punishment for fraternisation.

From the point of view of safeguarding the “sacred right of property” in capital and the profits on capital, such a policy of the capitalists is quite correct. Indeed, if the proletarian socialist revolution is to be suppressed at its inception it is essential that fraternisation be regarded the way the capitalists regard it.

The class-conscious workers, followed by the mass of semi-proletarians and poor peasants guided by the true instinct of oppressed classes, regard fraternisation with pro found sympathy. Clearly, fraternisation is a path to peace. Clearly, this path does not run through the capitalist governments, through an alliance with them, but runs against them. Clearly, this path tends to develop, strengthen, and consolidate fraternal confidence between the workers of different countries. Clearly, this path is beginning to wreck the hateful discipline of the barrack prisons, the discipline of blind obedience of the soldier to “his” officers and generals, to his capitalists (for most of the officers and generals either belong to the capitalist class or protect its interests). Clearly, fraternisation is the revolutionary initiative of the masses, it is the awakening of the conscience, the mind, the courage of the oppressed classes; in other words, it is a rung in the ladder leading up to the socialist proletarian revolution.

Long live fraternisation! Long live the rising world-wide socialist revolution of the proletariat!

In order that fraternisation achieve the goal we set it more easily, surely and rapidly, we must see to it that it is well organised and has a clear political programme.

However much the enraged press of the capitalists and their friends may slander us, calling us anarchists, we shall never tire of repeating: we are not anarchists, we are ardent advocates of the best possible organisation of the masses and the firmest “state” power—only the state we want is not a bourgeois parliamentary republic, but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies.

We have always recommended that fraternisation be conducted in the most organised manner, taking care—with the help of the intelligence, experience and observation of the soldiers themselves—that there should be no catch in it, and that the officers and generals, who for the most part spread vicious slander against fraternisation, be kept away from the meetings.

Our aim is not to have fraternisation confine itself to talk about peace in general, but pass on to a discussion of a clear political programme, to a discussion of how to end the war, how to throw off the yoke of the capitalists, who started this war and are now dragging it out.

Our Party has therefore issued an appeal to the soldiers of all the belligerent countries (for the text of which see Pravda No. 37),[1] which gives a definite and precise answer to these questions and a clear political programme.

It is a good thing that the soldiers are cursing the war. It is a good thing that they are demanding peace. It is a good thing that they are beginning to realise that the war is advantageous to the capitalists. It is a good thing that they are wrecking the harsh discipline and beginning to fraternise on all the fronts. All this is good.

But it is not enough.

The soldiers must now pass to a form of fraternisation in which a clear political programme is discussed. We are not anarchists. We do not think that the war can be ended by a simple ’refusal”, a refusal of individuals, groups or casual “crowds”. We are for the war being ended, as it will be, by a revolution in a number of countries, i.e., by the conquest of state power by a new class, not the capitalists, not the small proprietors (who are always half-dependent on the capitalists), but by the proletarians and semi-proletarians.

And so, in our appeal to the soldiers of all the belligerent countries we have set forth our programme for a workers’ revolution in all countries, namely, the transfer of all state power to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

Comrades, soldiers, discuss this programme among yourselves and with the German soldiers. Such a discussion will help you to find the true path, the most organised and shortest path, to end the war and overthrow the yoke of Capital.

A word about one of the servants of Capital, Plekhanov. It is pitiful to see how low this former socialist has sunk! He compares fraternisation to “treachery”! His argument is: will not fraternisation, if it succeeds, lead to a separate peace?

No, Mr. ex-socialist, fraternisation, which we have supported on all the fronts, will not lead to a “separate” peace between the capitalists of several countries, but to a universal peace between the revolutionary workers of all countries, despite the capitalists of all countries, against the capitalists, and for the overthrow of their yoke.

Source: Marxist Internet Archive