Lenin's response to the war

The outbreak of the imperialist war in 1914 was, of course, a crushing blow to the entire working class. But the conduct of the official leadership of the Socialist International in its surrender to the bourgeoisie was almost indescribable.

Such a betrayal as occurred in the period following August 1914 was unparalleled in the annals of the class struggle. It was the abandonment of a whole international class -- the workers of the world.

How the outbreak of the war found Lenin is a frequent subject of historians who concern themselves with that particular period. We will not take up here in any detail the views of the outright reactionaries, who are mainly concerned with vilifying the revolution and distorting the historic significance of Lenin's role in it. Suffice it to mention only Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who despite his rabidly reactionary yearnings for the good old days of czarist autocracy, has been raised to heroic proportions by being awarded a Nobel literature prize for his falsification of Russian history, particularly the revolutionary period. Solzhenitsyn has done his worst to portray Lenin as being lost at the outbreak of the war wholly out of touch with the situation in czarist Russia, and even surprised at the outbreak of the February Revolution.

Then there are the so-called friendly social critics of the left. They deal with the same period but do little to shed fight on the most delicate and sensitive area which the bourgeoisie in general is most interested in demolishing -- the relationship between building the party and the revolution. Isaac Deutscher is a leading representative of this type.

"In previous years," writes Deutscher, "international Socialist congresses had addressed strong anti-militaristic appeals to the working classes of the world, but few of the leaders really believed in the imminence of war. In the two years before its outbreak Lenin, immersed in factional affairs, wrote scarcely anything which suggests his awareness of the danger. When the war did break out, he was taken aback by the behavior of European socialism.

"On reading in Swiss newspapers that the parliamentarians of German socialism came out in support of the Kaiser's war, he refused to believe his eyes and at first treated the report as a kite flown by the German General Staff to fool the working class into acceptance. So great and simple had been his belief in the strength of Socialist internationalism. For a brief spell he was so downcast that he thought of leaving politics altogether. But then he recovered and decided to 'wage war on war.' He was no pacifist. His answer to war was revolution." [1]

It would have been impossible for any revolutionary Marxist who had spent a lifetime in stubborn struggle against the czarist autocracy and the bourgeoisie as a whole to view the downfall of the Second International with equanimity. That would be unrealistic.

It is another matter entirely to paint Lenin as having been so downcast at the collapse of the International that he would think of leaving politics. Lenin scarcely needs any defense in the revolutionary working class movement today. But this version of Lenin needs to be corrected. Not only that, a whole number of misconceptions are here encapsulated into a single paragraph.

First of all, the international congresses, by which Deutscher must have meant Stuttgart and Basel, did not merely address strong anti-militarist appeals to the workers. The resolutions of these congresses, which in many ways are a model for today, were directed at the overthrow of the capitalist system, and said precisely that.

While they may have become nothing more than ceremonial and harmless resolutions to the majority of the officialdom -- that is, the central staff of the Second International where the German and French social democrats predominated -- these resolutions enabled Lenin and the Bolsheviks to continue the struggle and demonstrate the legitimacy of the leftwing. They immediately began to lay the basis for a new international that would be heir to the revolutionary traditions of the Second International and in particular to its anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist legacy and the legacy of revolutionary Marxism as a whole.

As we pointed out earlier, Lenin was one of the collaborators in amending the Basel resolution, along with Rosa Luxemburg and Martov. There are many anti-war resolutions today that are strongly worded, anti-militarist and address themselves to the workers, but they are usually not related to the struggle against capitalism, nor do they admonish the workers to overthrow the system of capitalist exploitation in the event of war, as did the Stuttgart and Basel resolutions.

The Basel and Stuttgart resolutions were by no means a dead letter with the Bolsheviks, even at the most difficult and critical moments when confusion reigned supreme all over the working class world and affected the revolutionaries as a whole.

It is no accident that a bare few days after the outbreak of the war, one Bolshevik deputy in the czarist Duma (the so-called parliament) was accosted at his home one evening by a crowd of bourgeois journalists from all the St. Petersburg newspapers. They began to question him on the Bolshevik attitude toward the war. (Of course, the bourgeois press didn't print the Bolsheviks' statement. They were busy whipping up the chauvinist hysteria.)

Here is what the Bolshevik deputy had to say:

The working class will oppose the war with all its force. The war is against the interests of the workers. On the contrary, its edge is turned against the working class all over the world. The Basel Congress of the Socialist International in the name of the world proletariat, passed a resolution declaring that, in case of the declaration of war, our duty was to wage a determined struggle against it.

We, the real representatives of the working class, will fight for the slogan, 'War against war!' Every member of our fraction will fight against the war with all the means at his disposal. [2]

This demonstrates more than anything that the Bolsheviks by no means looked upon the Basel and Stuttgart resolutions as ceremonial. They stood stoutly on the ground of internationalism and were not afraid to quote a "foreign" organization as an authority. Such was the kind of international solidarity which characterized the Bolsheviks. There is all of Lenin in it.

Deutscher, in describing Lenin's shock on seeing a copy of the Vorwarts which carried the news of the German Social Democratic Party's support of the war presents a false picture of Lenin. His shock over the betrayal had nothing to do with Lenin's "great and simple belief" in socialist internationalism. Lenin's internationalism on the contrary was of the deepest and profoundest kind.

He knew all the leaders of the Second International. He had amassed the richest experience of any of them in inner-party as well as inter-party struggles, in carrying out a relentless war against conciliators, liquidators, and ultraleftists. In fact, Lenin's factional experience, even at that time, would have made it quite impossible for him to view the proletarian internationalism. of the Second International in isolation from the opportunism in the International. He was well aware of the opportunism of the right wing. He knew Kautsky personally by then and did not exactly regard him as the embodiment of proletarian internationalism Ever since the Bolsheviks had become the majority grouping of the Russian Social Democratic Party, Kautsky had tried to act as conciliator between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. But it was already long out of bounds to conciliate the irreconcilable.

It is of course true that Lenin's belief in the strength of socialist internationalism was great. But it is not true, as Deutscher says, that it was simple, which conveys the impression of naivete.

That characterization might, with certain qualifications, be correct for Eugene Debs, for whom Lenin had great respect as a militant and revolutionary socialist and also as an internationalist. Debs ceaselessly agitated on the basis that there was only one war he would participate in, a war of the working class against the capitalist class. For his militant opposition to the imperialist war, he was tried, convicted and jailed. But Debs" internationalism was indeed simple. While he was supportive of all the struggles against capitalism and imperialism, he was aloof from the Second International and also attempted to stand above the factionalism in his own party. He was more of a revolutionary agitator during that period than an active participant in the struggle of political tendencies. He had a keen insight into the basic antagonism between the working class and the capitalist class, but he had not made a comprehensive study of Marxism.

Lenin's entire career as a revolutionary Marxist shows that he was not merely supportive of the anti-imperialist struggle and of international solidarity measures taken by the Second International. Lenin was a leading figure in shaping the boldest and most revolutionary conceptions of internationalism, which he pushed in the various congresses of the Second International.

Lenin was a leading activist on the highest level of the Second International, as anyone can easily see who has read his evaluation of the international socialist congress in Stuttgart, as well as his comments on the Basel congress. Reading these today, many decades after they were written, one can only be astonished at the very clear perception he had of the political currents in the international socialist movement. He not only analyzed the character of the rightwing and of the opportunists and revisionists, but he also showed an awareness of the centrism of Kautsky. Furthermore, it is well known that Lenin attempted to form a left bloc within the Second International in which he tried to fuse the most determined and revolutionary elements within it. He approached Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin for the purposes of forming such a caucus.

Lenin showed as long ago as 1907, and earlier too, that he had a keen appreciation of the growing strength of the opportunist current as regarded the colonial question in the deliberations of the international congress.

"The great importance of the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart," said Lenin in his evaluation, "lies in the fact that it marked the final consolidation of the Second International and the transformation of international congresses into business-like meetings which exercise very considerable influence on the nature and direction of socialist activities throughout the world."[3]

In a slightly earlier commentary on Stuttgart, he had written, "Besides providing an impressive demonstration of international unity in the proletarian struggle, the Congress played an outstanding part in defining the tactics of the socialist party." [4] The congress was "striking proof that socialism is being welded into a single international force."

He then went on to analyze the existence of an opportunist current and explained how the congress defeated the Dutch delegates' opportunist formulation of the colonial question. He indicated that a very dangerous trend was being introduced, although it was defeated at the congress. [5]

He also attacked Herve [6] for taking a seemingly more militant but in reality semi-anarchist view in the struggle against the war. And, of course, he showed that it was his and Rosa Luxemburg's amendments to Bebel's [7] resolution which put in the key paragraph, which called for utilizing the crisis created by the war to hasten the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Kautsky is mentioned in this very illuminating article only once, Lenin characterized Kautsky's approach as correct but cautious.

By the time another socialist congress was called the International Socialist Bureau and its constituent parties had all carried out huge demonstrations against the war build-up and had issued much agitation and propaganda material. By that time, Lenin's relations with the leaders of the Second International were pretty well formulated. The centrists leaned in the direction of being conciliatory to the Mensheviks. In fact Kautsky himself was showing increasing signs of leaning toward the Mensheviks. Efforts at conciliation between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks showed all too clearly that they feared Lenin's "Blanquism" [8] and "sectarianism." Although Lenin regarded Kautsky by the standards of that era as a leader of the Second International, he by no means had a naive attitude toward him or the others.

His clear conception of the principal social trends in the Second International precluded any addiction to the kind of abstract or simple internationalism alluded to by Deutscher. He was only too well aware that socialist internationalism as an objective factor in the struggle of the worldwide working class was one thing. The question of leadership, which was one of his principal contributions in the struggle, was another matter. Being supportive of socialist internationalism, having strong convictions about it, all this of course was important and indispensable. But the struggle to make socialist internationalism more than an abstract, general guide was precisely where Leninism distinguished itself from the social democracy of the time. Lenin's internationalism was rooted in his acute perception of the class struggle and the bourgeois social tendencies which manifested themselves in left political groupings and had to be continually combated.

Certainly the war did not come as a bolt from the blue. But the fact that none of the leaders, even among the most revolutionary in the Second International, were able to predict the betrayal demonstrated that opportunism as a social trend in the world movement had advanced like a disease far more rapidly and had engulfed and captured the leadership to a greater degree than any of the revolutionaries could have anticipated.

Naivete in relationships, both in the party and in the International, was not a trait of Lenin's. Even Lenin's worst enemies knew he was above all a realist.

He knew that the bourgeoisie was capable of any crime, any frame-up. It was more in keeping with previous historical experience to believe that the Kaiser would carry out a frame-up of the German party than that the Socialist International would utterly capitulate. It is in this context that one should see Lenin's reaction to the Vorwarts article -- in the context of such monstrous bourgeois frame-ups as the Dreyfus affair, [9] the sinking of the Lusitania, [10] and czarist attempts to frame the Jewish people with the so-called Protocols of Zion. [11] A modern example would be the Gulf of Tonkin hoax. [12]

Finally, there is no documentary evidence whatever known to us which would justify the assertion that Lenin was so downcast he was thinking of leaving politics altogether. For one thing, he literally had no time to think about it. But one must examine a chronology of Lenin's political behavior in the period immediately after the declaration of war. When the war broke out, Lenin and Krupskaya [13] were in Krakow (now part of Poland), which at the time was under Austrian domination. At the outbreak of the war, Krakow was a beehive of activity for the Bolshevik exiles. Lenin was up to his ears with work in connection with the revolutionary resurgence in Russia, where the strike movement was taking on greater and greater momentum.

No sooner had the war broken out than Lenin was arrested at the instigation of the czarist authorities. He was released after pressure on the Austrian government through social democratic friends and contacts. Within days of his release, Lenin began working feverishly on a thesis against the war.

It is also putting Lenin totally out of focus in this period to say that in the two years before the war, he was immersed in factional affairs and wrote scarcely anything suggesting his awareness of the danger. Deutscher misses a point which should be obvious to him as a historian of the revolution and of the period in general. The factional struggle to which he refers, the intransigent struggle to build the Bolshevik party on a firm working-class basis, the struggle against the rightwing of the Social Democratic Party of Russia -- the Mensheviks, the liquidators, the conciliators to bourgeois ideology -- all of this was in essence also a struggle against imperialist war if it were to break out. But when it would break out, or if it would break out, was not an issue in the party or the international as a whole.

During the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 the Russian Social Democratic Party as a whole, including both the Menshevik and Bolshevik factions, had opposed the war. It should be noted that the Japanese social democrats, too, were opposed to the war. The party and the International also took a correct position on the war in the Balkans.

Lenin wrote what was necessary for the prosecution of the revolutionary class struggle of the period. It was the building and consolidation of the party in that crucial period which was so indispensable to the success of the revolution.

Lenin was a polemicist. He took up those arguments which needed to be answered. For instance, he had several years earlier written his celebrated Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, [14] in which he vigorously defended the purity of Marxist methodology against the attempt to adulterate dialectical materialism with bourgeois idealism. Lenin did not write this very important defense of materialism against the neo-Kantians and disciples of Mach [15] just because he had a general interest in defending philosophical materialism against the conciliators with agnosticism, a form of idealism. No, he did so because it had become an issue in the party. Lenin characterized the grouping in the Bolshevik party led by A. Bogdanov and A.V. Lunacharsky as god-seekers conciliating with religion, which had grown in the period of reaction. To reduce this theoretical work down to being immersed in factional affairs in Deutscher's words is totally inadequate.

There could be no more cogent evidence of where Lenin stood at the outbreak of the war than what can only be described as an eyewitness account of him during the days and weeks immediately following the start of the onslaught. We refer to the "Recollections of G. L. Shklovsky" originally published in 1925. [16]

"I may testify," says Shklovsky, "that the fundamental slogans of Lenin's tactic in the imperialist war had been formulated by him in Austria during the first few days of the war, for he brought them to Berne completely formulated.

"And further! I have every reason for stating that this tactic had matured in Lenin's head probably on the first day of the war."

This gave Lenin precious little time for the kind of pessimism and dejection which Deutscher attributes to him.

"My arrest on the third or fourth day of the war may serve as a proof of this statement. ... My arrest was caused by a telegram from Vladimir Ilich [Lenin] addressed to me which was intercepted by the Swiss military authorities. In this telegram Lenin suggested that I should get in touch with our comrades in Paris for the purpose of organizing the issue of war leaflets and proclamations. This indicates that there was not a moment of doubt or vacillation on the part of Vladimir Ilich and that on the first day of the war he was already thinking of a war against war, i.e., of turning the imperialist war into a civil war."

There is no reason whatever to cast any doubt on Shklovsky's recollections. He had no motive to excessively build up Lenin, either personal or political. Shklovsky was an old Bolshevik and remained one throughout his revolutionary career, during the period of building the party, during the revolution, and long afterwards. He had been arrested many times and exiled, escaped from exile, and went to Switzerland in 1912. He was a Bolshevik delegate to the Basel International Socialist Congress and attended the Berne Congress of Bolshevik organizations abroad.

"On about the second day [after Lenin's arrival in Berne] a meeting was held in the forest ... where Ilich spoke on the attitude toward the war this being the only possible subject of discussion for us at that time." And only a bare few days later, that is, "on September 6 or 7," says Shklovsky, "a more intimate meeting was held in my apartment; at this meeting Ilich presented his theses on the war. It is interesting to see who was at this meeting in addition to Lenin."

In addition to Ilich Zinoviev and Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya, the following comrades were present: Samoilovm, Safarov, and Lilina, and possible Inessa.

"At this meeting Ilich's theses met with no objection whatsoever and were accepted in full. In a few days Comrade N.F. Samoilov departed with these theses for Russia via Italy and the Balkans. Furthermore, I had handed several copies of these theses to a student, Shenkman, who was at that time in sympathy with us and was leaving for Russia on the same boat. ..."

Had all gone well, Lenin's anti-war resolution would have been in the hands of the Bolshevik party. However, it was learned that the theses had been intercepted and became, as Shklovsky says, the chief evidence of the czarist government against the Bolshevik Duma group. Nonetheless, members of the Central Committee of the Duma group did become acquainted with the theses, adopted them, and thereafter the ball really started rolling to link up the Leninist grouping outside of Russia with the party inside the country.

Shklovsky then describes the trial of the Bolshevik deputies to the Duma.

"From Deputy Petrovsky's testimony at the trial of the Bolsheviks it was revealed that these theses were also adopted by seven of the largest concerns in Petrograd." This is an extremely significant symptom of how class-conscious the workers were in Petrograd, but also shows that organizational steps of real import were already in progress.

A note in Gankin and Fisher's book The Bolsheviks and the World War states,

"In Russia these theses were mimeographed and sent to various large party organizations. Apparently they were discussed and adopted by the workers of a number of factories in Petersburg during the second half of September 1914; they were sent to Kamenev, in October they were discussed in Moscow, according to police records. They were discovered also in Baku. ... Samoilov recalls that in the middle of September 1914, immediately on his return from abroad, he presented the point of view of the Bureau of the Central Committee Abroad at a meeting of party members in Ivanovo-Voznesensk." [17]

Finally the theses were discussed at a conference of Bolshevik deputies and party members on November 17, 1914.

The first concern of Lenin upon his arrival in Switzerland was to resume the publication of the central organ, Sotsial-Demokrat. "I had to dig up my entire library," continues Shklovsky, "in order to establish the fact that the last number of Sotsial-Demokrat which had appeared in Paris approximately a year before was No. 32. ... [A]fter a period of almost two months, No. 33 of Sotsial-Demokrat appeared, the first issue after a long interruption.

". ... We were entirely cut off from Russia. Only in the middle of October did we succeed, through Comrade Aleksandr [Shliapnikov], who had come to Stockholm for that purpose, in establishing the first contact with Russia. Vladimir Ilich held on to that link with all his strength, fearing that it might break, especially since about November 20 news was received of the arrest of the Duma group and of the members of the Central Committee in Russia."

It was then that Lenin decided to call a conference of the sections of the party abroad. It was difficult to do this in light of wartime conditions, even from neutral Switzerland.

"Still," says Shklovsky, "we succeeded in calling this Conference, although it was not as well represented as we had wished it. Our Scandinavian sections were not represented at the Conference and not a single representative was present from our comrades in Germany and Austria. Nor was there a representative from the London section. ..."

Nonetheless, a break was made. Lenin was steadily moving with determination. He "missed no occasion of getting in touch with those individual foreigners, who in some way or other protested against the war" and attempted to reach out in every way with his revolutionary internationalist position. He "paid special interest to the parties and groups which had taken a more or less internationalist position (the Italian and Swiss parties, the German Left tendency, the Left tendency among the youth organizations).

"In his relations with them," Shklovsky affirms, Lenin "directed all the strength of his revolutionary passion and of his iron logic not so much against the open opportunists, the struggle against whom he considered to be relatively easy, but against the covert defensists, the 'Centrists,' with Kautsky at the head. He missed no occasion, by word of mouth, in the press, in private letters, at meetings and wherever possible, to expose and to brand them as the meanest and most dangerous traitors. ..."

This is an altogether different Lenin than the ones presented by the rabid restorationist Solzhenitsyn or the leftist Deutscher. And it is a very different view of the period immediately following the outbreak of the war. It dispels the falsehood that the leaders were all paralyzed and merely waiting for the masses to revolt, or were downcast, full of pessimism, and intending to quit altogether, as Deutscher presents Lenin. Instead, the immediate period after the war began was particularly significant in the preparation for the revolution. It was a vital link in the struggle to develop and strengthen the party and to enable it to ultimately carry out its task.

The bourgeois view of it as presented above eliminates this vital link between the necessity of organizational and political preparation and the intervention of the masses for the overthrow of the czarist monarchy. It eliminates the very difficult and very necessary task of organizing and spreading Lenin's message on converting the imperialist war into a civil war. The impression is left that the spontaneous revolutionary intervention of the masses alone accounted for the revolution; it downplays the vital element of preparing the cadres to direct the spontaneous revolutionary upheaval, not merely into anti-czarist but into anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist directions, paving the way for the proletarian revolution.

It is no accident that bourgeois historians almost universally underplay the period of preparation, the long hard years in exile. They show their hostility to the future leaders of the revolution by portraying them as a variety of exile groups, each claiming hegemony over the masses with whom these exile leaders had no connection, and squabbling over abstruse theories to which the masses had no affinity.

The possibility of a world war had been foreseen by Engels as far back as 1887.

No war is any longer possible for Prussia-Germany except a world war and a world war indeed of an extension and violence hitherto undreamt of. Eight to ten millions of soldiers will mutually massacre one another and in doing so devour the whole of Europe until they have stripped it barer than any swarm of locusts has ever done. The devastation of the Thirty Years' War compressed into three or four years and spread over the whole Continent; famine, pestilence, general demoralization both of the armies and of the mass of the people produced by acute distress; hopeless confusion of our artificial machinery in trade, industry and credit, ending in general bankruptcy; collapse of the old states and their traditional state wisdom to such an extent that crowns will roll by dozens on the pavement and there will be nobody to pick them up, absolute impossibility of foreseeing how it will all end and who will come out of the struggle as victor; only one result absolutely certain: general exhaustion and the establishment of the conditions for the ultimate victory of the working class. [18]

This general prognosis of Engels was well known among the socialist leaders. The Russo-Japanese war and the Balkans war were responded to in a generally progressive manner by the parties in the Second International.

Lenin would certainly have written more on the subject had there been divergent prognoses on the war, if differences had arisen on the approach. Had that been the case, and had he failed to join the polemic, criticism would be valid. In general Lenin was not given to speculation and writing on subjects of no immediate significance in preparing the workers for the struggle. His main work was to relentlessly and without letup propagate the irreconcilable struggle against the bourgeoisie, whose representatives in the working class movement were the Mensheviks, the conciliators with the bourgeoisie, and the liquidators. It was therefore no wonder that the Bolsheviks led the anti-war struggle and were exiled to Siberia for their role in it.

The fact that Lenin in this period did not write on the impending imperialist war which would have been speculative in character in any case, should be seen against the background of his most urgent tasks in relation to the party.

Frequently overlooked by Western historians of the period we are discussing are the immense, almost herculean tasks Lenin had in coordinating the legal and illegal work of the party, and supervising the very important but delicate work of the Bolshevik fraction in the Duma.

One of Lenin's outstanding contributions to the proper pursuit of the class struggle against the bourgeoisie lies precisely in his unique approach to rigorously pursuing a revolutionary class line, without falling into the trap of surrendering to whatever semblance of bourgeois legality exists, or of giving up on the struggle altogether and awaiting the spontaneous rise of the masses. Much of Lenin's work went into elaborating and consistently pursuing the need for combining both tasks -- legal and illegal. What probably is least of all understood in the Western bourgeois democracies is Lenin's role in organizing, educating, and supervising the work of the Bolshevik fraction in the Duma.

Take for instance the Social Democratic Party in Germany as it exists today, or for that matter as it has always existed. Even back in Kautsky's time, when he was the recognized theoretical leader of the party, the work of the Reichstag fraction was mostly done by the insiders themselves. It was a fraction that sort of led itself. Of course, there was general agreement with the central organ of the party, but by and large it was loose. Kautsky did not exercise the kind of political authority and organizational direction over the fraction that Lenin did in Russia, even when he was in exile. Today Willy Brandt, chairman of the German Social Democratic Party can exercise only whatever broad moral authority he may have over the party. By and large the party fraction in the Federal Republic of Germany today is run by the parliamentarians. Even party congresses are little more than advisory groups whose often radical resolutions are rarely taken seriously by the establishment "inside" groups who wield the power and authority. To the extent that the party as a whole exercises influence upon the fraction it is really of a marginal character. And this is the case in almost all the other workers' parties in the bourgeois democracies where parliamentary fractions exist.

Lenin's task was most difficult in that the Bolshevik deputies were hunted and harassed by the czarist police, and often faced long years in prison. In order to wield political influence over them and infuse them with his revolutionary class approach, Lenin had to do more than just generalize the problems of the Duma fraction, which by then had become a strong force in the Russian labor movement. He also meticulously did their work for them.

It was Lenin who in the early days, following the defeat of the 1905 Revolution, carefully studied the deliberately complex character of the czarist election procedures after the czar finally authorized elections to the Duma. Lenin unraveled many of these intricate election technicalities and showed how in even the most reactionary Duma it was possible to introduce important resolutions on the situation in Russia -- workers' conditions, the nationalities question, and many others. He frequently wrote their speeches. He particularly studied the agrarian question so as to enable the Bolshevik deputies to present an independent program in relation to the bourgeois parties, who vied with the Bolsheviks for the allegiance of the peasantry.

It should be noted that in the 1912 elections to the Duma, the Bolsheviks carried all seats in the workers' districts, or so-called curias. Their fraction was known as the Bolshevik Six. The Menshevik Seven won their seats mostly in areas reflecting the petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. Krupskaya in her Reminiscences of Lenin [19] says that the Bolshevik Six represented a million workers, whereas the seven Menshevik deputies represented less than a quarter of a million people.

A point to be made in connection with the present era is that the social democrats everywhere regard themselves (and the bourgeoisie almost always is only too eager to agree) as being democratic, in contrast to the communists, and especially the Bolsheviks. Yet when the Bolshevik Six and the Menshevik Seven tried to work together as one fraction, the Mensheviks "democratically" decided that they alone could speak for the combined group, they alone could frame the questions to be asked in the Duma, and they alone could decide what petty privileges the deputies would get in the way of exercising whatever rights the Duma members had. One would think in light of the narrow margin won, let alone how many workers each represented, that elementary democratic rules dictated at least a more or less equal division of authority. But the Menshevik Seven stuck to their guns and even caused a scandal in the international. They forced Plekhanov, who was abroad then and was nominally the head of the Social Democratic Party as a whole, to resign because of this dispute. Of course, on the broader questions dividing the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, Plekhanov stood with the former.

By 1912 when the resurgence was in full swing and legality was restored in some measure because of the upsurge, the Bolsheviks were able to put out a daily paper -- Pravda. It was no mean task for Lenin to write for it almost daily. Overall there were always urgent tasks organizing conferences of the party and continuing the struggle against the Mensheviks in all phases of the class struggle.

All this work had the greatest significance in shaping the Bolshevik party to be able to withstand the tide of chauvinism that swept Europe at the outbreak of the war.


1. Isaac Deutscher, Stalin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), p. 125. [return]

2. A. Badayev, The Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma (London: Martin Lawrence Ltd., 1929), p. 198. [return]

3. V.I. Lenin, "The International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart" in his Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1962), Vol. 13, p. 82. [return]

4. Ibid., p. 75. [return]

5. Ibid., p. 76. [return]

6. Herve: Gustave Herve was a Socialist leader and writer who argued that the workers have no country and therefore can have no interest in any kind of war. He advocated a general strike and an armed insurrection in the event of a declaration of war. [return]

7. Bebel: August Bebel (1840-1913) was one of the early leaders of the Social Democratic movement in Germany, having joined the First International of Marx and Engels in 1867. [return]

8. Blanquism: Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) participated in many uprisings of the Paris proletariat. His view that the dictatorship of the proletariat would be achieved by a revolutionary coup d'etat carefully and secretly prepared for became known as "Blanquism." [return]

9. Dreyfus affair: Capt. Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was a Jewish officer on the French General Staff who was framed on treason charges and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devils Island in 1895. The Church and pro-monarchist elements in France waged a vicious anti-Semitic campaign around the "Dreyfus affair," which became a focus of the struggle between reaction and the socialist movement. Dreyfus was finally exonerated in 1906, ten years after evidence proving his innocence had been uncovered. [return]

10. Sinking of the Lusitania: The British liner Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. Almost 1,200 passengers and crew were killed, including more than 100 Americans. This event became a rallying cry for the pro-war faction, in the U.S. When the U.S. finally entered the war against Germany in 1917, it was under the slogan "Remember the Lusitania! " Germany claimed that the ship had been carrying contraband war material. It wasn't until 1960 that the U.S. and Britain opened secret archives showing that the ship's manifest made public after the tragedy had been a forgery and that the Lusitania was carrying 60 tons of shells and bullets when it was hit. The large loss of life had been due to the ship sinking in only ten minutes. [return]

11. Protocols of Zion: The "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" was a forged document that purported to describe a plot by "international Jewry" to seize control of the world. It first appeared in the late 19th century, and was later revived by Hitler to justify his genocidal anti-Semitic purges. [return]

12. Gulf of Tonkin hoax: The U.S. began the bombing of North Viet Nam in August 5, 1964, after what it claimed had been two attacks on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin by North Vietnamese P-T boats. This pretext was then ratified by the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, passed in the Senate on August 7, 1964, which in the absence of any declaration of war became the legal "justification" for the massive escalation by the U.S. government of the war in Viet Nam. It was finally revealed seven years later with the publication of the Pentagon Papers that the U.S. had been planning to bomb the North for six months and engineered the "attacks" as a pretext. [return]

13. Krupskaya: Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya was Lenin's wife and close political collaborator for 30 years. [return]

14. V.I. Lenin, "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy," op. cit., Vol. 14, pp. 17-361. [return]

15. Neo-Kantians and disciples of Mach: The neo-Kantians were a reactionary trend in bourgeois philosophy that opposed Marxism and preached subjective idealism under the slogan of a return to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Ernst Mach (1838-1916) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher whose followers attacked dialectical materialism, supposedly from the standpoint of natural science. [return]

16. G.L. Shklovsky's recollections are extensively quoted in O.H. Gankin and H.H. Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the World War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1940), pp. 143-46. [return]

17. O.H. Gankin and H.H. Fisher, op. cit., p. 144. [return]

18. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, 1846-1895 (New York: International Publishers, 1942), pp. 456-457. [return]

19. Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin (New York: International Publishers, 1970). [return]

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