Written prior to August 20
Published according to
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964
Vol. 21, pp. 345-48.
Translated from the Russian
Edited by Julius Katzer
The present war has been engendered by imperialism. Capitalism has already achieved that highest stage. Society's productive forces and the magnitudes of capital have outgrown the narrow limits of the individual national states. Hence the striving on the part of the Great Powers to enslave other nations and to seize colonies as sources of raw material and spheres of investment of capital. The whole world is merging into a single economic organism; it has been carved up among a handful of Great Powers. The objective conditions for socialism have fully matured, and the present war is a war of the capitalists for privileges and monopolies that might delay the downfall of capitalism.
The socialists, who seek to liberate labour from the yoke of capital and who defend the world-wide solidarity of the workers, are struggling against any kind of oppression and inequality of nations. When the bourgeoisie was a progressive class, and the overthrow of feudalism, absolutism and oppression by other nations stood on the historical order of the day, the socialists, as invariably the most consistent and most resolute of democrats, recognised "defence of the fatherland" in the meaning implied by those aims, and in that meaning alone. Today too, should a war of the oppressed nations against the oppressor Great Powers break out in the east of Europe or in the colonies, the socialists' sympathy would be wholly with the oppressed.
The war of today, however, has been engendered by an entirely different historical period, in which the bourgeoisie, from a progressive class, has turned reactionary. With
both groups of belligerents, this war is a war of slaveholders, and is designed to preserve and extend slavery; it is a war for the repartitioning of colonies, for the "right" to oppress other nations, for privileges and monopolies for Great-Power capital, and for the perpetuation of wage slavery by splitting up the workers of the different countries and crushing them through reaction. That is why, on the part of both warring groups, all talk about "defence of the fatherland" is deception of the people by the bourgeoisie. Neither the victory of any one group nor a return to the status quo can do anything either to protect the freedom of most countries in the world from imperialist oppression by a handful of Great Powers, or to ensure that the working class keep even its present modest cultural gains. The period of a relatively peaceful capitalism has passed, never to return. Imperialism has brought the working class unparalleled intensification of the class struggle, want, and unemployment, a higher cost of living, and the strengthening of oppression by the trusts, of militarism, and the political reactionaries, who are raising their heads in all countries, even the freest.
In reality, the "defence of the fatherland" slogan in the present war is tantamount to a defence of the "right" of one's "own" national bourgeoisie to oppress other nations; it is in fact a national liberal-labour policy, an alliance between a negligible section of the workers and their "own" national bourgeoisie, against the mass of the proletarians and the exploited. Socialists who pursue such a policy are in fact chauvinists, social-chauvinists. The policy of voting for war credits, of joining governments, of Burgfrieden,* and the like, is a betrayal of socialism. Nurtured by the conditions of the "peaceful", period which has now come to an end, opportunism has now matured to a degree that calls for a break with socialism; it has become an open enemy to the proletariat's movement for liberation. The working class cannot achieve its historic aims without waging a most resolute struggle against both forthright opportunism and social-chauvinism (the majorities in the Social-Demo-
cratic parties of France, Germany and Austria; Hyndman, the Fabians and the trade unionists in Britain; Rubanovich, Plekhanov and Nasha Zarya in Russia, etc.) and the so-called Centre, which has surrendered the Marxist stand to the chauvinists.
Unanimously adopted by socialists of the entire world in anticipation of that very kind of war among the Great Powers which has now broken out, the Basle Manifesto of 1912 distinctly recognised the imperialist and reactionary nature of that war, declared it criminal for workers of one country to shoot at workers of another country, and proclaimed the approach of the proletarian revolution in connection with that very war. Indeed, the war is creating a revolutionary situation, is engendering revolutionary sentiments and unrest in the masses, is arousing in the finer part of the proletariat a realisation of the perniciousness of opportunism, and is intensifying the struggle against it. The masses' growing desire for peace expresses their disappointment, the defeat of the bourgeois lie regarding the defence of the fatherland, and the awakening of their revolutionary consciousness. In utilising that temper for their revolutionary agitation, and not shying away in that agitation from considerations of the defeat of their "own" country, the socialists will not deceive the people with the hope that, without the revolutionary overthrow of the present-day governments, a possibility exists of a speedy democratic peace, which will be durable in some degree and will preclude any oppression of nations, a possibility of disarmament, etc. Only the social revolution of the proletariat opens the way towards peace and freedom for the nations.
The imperialist war is ushering in the era of the social revolution. All the objective conditions of recent times have put the proletariat's revolutionary mass struggle on the order of the day. It is the duty of socialists, while making use of every means of the working class's legal struggle, to subordinate each and every of those means to this immediate and most important task, develop the workers' revolutionary consciousness, rally them in the international revolutionary struggle, promote and encourage any revolutionary action, and do everything possible to
turn the imperialist war between the peoples into a civil war of the oppressed classes against their oppressors, a war for the expropriation of the class of capitalists, for the conquest of political power by the proletariat, and the realisation of socialism.