Category Archives: WWI

Leon Trotsky: “For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism” (1931)

The events of this past week in Charlottesville, VA have led us to call for the immediate formation of multiracial, union-based workers militias to smash the fascist threat now feeling the wind under its wings thanks to the support of the US’ new racist, immigrant-hating real-estate swindler president Donald “Andrew Johnson” Trump.

If the US Government is going to allow armed white supremacist scum to parade in the streets of US cities threatening to murder antifascist protestors then the working class must be organized to defend itself with the very same weaponry that is being brandished by the fascists.  We call for the immediate formation of  union-based workers defense guards.   Led by military vets who are union members these powerful workers battalions can harness the creative energy of the entire multiracial US working class to provide a reliable, trustworthy and  disciplined defense against the rise of the fascist scum, and can easily overwhelm any fascist mobilization that dares to make the mistake of attempting to march in the multiracial bastions of US trade unionism: our major US cities.

We are presenting the best revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist writings of the great revolutionary leaders of our movement who organized the global fight to smash fascism in the 1930s and 1940s.  It was not the belated Normandy invasion (undertaken only after it was clear that the Nazis would not defeat the USSR as the western imperialists had hoped) but the might of the USSR’s Red Army that crushed the Nazi hordes who tried and failed to overthrow the bureaucratically deformed Stalinist workers state in World War II.  The collapse of the Nazi Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front in 1944 proved the inherent superiority of the socialist system – even one so poorly led as the Stalinist USSR was – on the battlefields of Eastern Europe, where the mightiest military force ever deployed by the capitalist world found itself overwhelmed by the superior organizational and economic power of socialism, backed by superior morale and internationalist ideals of global collective struggle to defend the gains of the Bolshevik Revolution.

In this selection, Lenin’s right-hand man during the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, the organizer and leader of the Red Army and leader of the anti-Stalinist Left Opposition in the Communist Party Leon Trotsky warns German communist workers in 1931 of the impending fascist coup that was bound to occur if the working class did not form an antifascist united front against Hitler and his Nazis.

Writing for the Bulletin of the Opposition in December of 1931, here is Trotsky’s analysis of the situation in Germany.  He accurately predicts that Hitler would provoke a civil war in and then come to power not through bourgeois-democratic means but through a coup.  He talks about the disastrous concept of voting for the “lesser evil” which is so sadly prevalent in the United States today; there is much here that will be food for thought for those who are serious about fighting fascism in 2017.  We hope you find this historical gem from the archives of Trotskyism to be helpful in answering your questions as to what must be done to smash fascism in the here and now.

— IWPCHI

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For a Workers’ United Front
Against Fascism

Germany is now passing through one of those great historic hours upon which the fate of the German people, the fate of Europe, and in significant measure the fate of all humanity, will depend for decades. If you place a ball on top of a pyramid, the slightest impact can cause it to roll down either to the left or to the right. That is the situation approaching with every hour in Germany today. There are forces which would like the ball to roll down towards the right and break the back of the working class. There are forces which would like the ball to remain at the top. That is a utopia. The ball cannot remain at the top of the pyramid. The Communists want the ball to roll down toward the left and break the back of capitalism. But it is not enough to want; one must know how. Let us calmly reflect once more: is the policy carried on at present by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany correct or incorrect?

What Does Hitler Want?

The fascists are growing very rapidly. The Communists are also growing but much more slowly. The growth at the extreme poles shows that the ball cannot maintain itself at the top of the pyramid. The rapid growth of the fascists signifies the danger that the ball may roll down toward the right. Therein lies an enormous danger.

Hitler emphasizes that he is against a coup d’état. In order to strangle democracy once and for all, he wants to come to power by no other route than the democratic road. Can we seriously believe this?

Of course, if the fascists could figure on obtaining an absolute majority of the votes at the next elections in a peaceful way, then they would perhaps even prefer this road. In reality, however, this road is unthinkable for them. It is stupid to believe that the Nazis would grow uninterruptedly, as they do now, for an unlimited period of time. Sooner or later they will drain their social reservoir. Fascism has introduced into its own ranks such terrific contradictions, that the moment must come in which the flow ceases to replace the ebb. This moment can arrive long before the fascists have united about them even half of the votes. They will not be able to halt for they will have nothing more to look for here. They will be forced to resort to an overturn.

But even apart from all this, the fascists are cut off from the democratic road. The immense growth of the political contradictions in the country, the stark brigands’ agitation of the fascists, will inevitably lead to a situation in which the closer the fascists approach a majority, the more heated the atmosphere will become and the more extensive the unfolding of the conflicts and struggles will be. With this perspective, civil war is absolutely inevitable. Consequently, the question of the seizure of power by the fascists will not be decided by vote, but by civil war, which the fascists are preparing and provoking.

Can we assume even for one minute that Hitler and his counselors do not realize and foresee this? That would mean to consider them blockheads. There is no greater crime in politics than that of hoping for stupidities on the part of a strong enemy. But if Hitler is not unaware that the road to power leads through the most gruesome civil war, then it means that his speeches about the peaceful democratic road are only a cloak, that is, a stratagem. In that case, it is all the more necessary to keep one’s eyes open.

What Is Concealed Behind Hitler’s Stratagem?

His calculations are quite simple and obvious: he wants to lull his antagonists with the long-run perspective of the parliamentary growth of the Nazis in order to catch them napping and to deal them a deathblow at the right moment It is quite possible that Hitler’s courtesies to democratic parliamentarism may, moreover, help to set up some sort of coalition in the immediate future in which the fascists will obtain the most important posts and employ them in turn for their coup d’état. For it is entirely clear that the coalition, let us assume, between the Center and the fascists will not be a stage in the democratic solution of the question, but a step closer to the coup d’etat under conditions most favorable to the fascists.

We Must Plan According to the Shorter Perspective

All this means that even independently of the desires of the fascist general staff, the solution can intervene in the course Of the next few months, if not weeks. This circumstance is of tremendous importance in elaborating a correct policy. If we allow the fascists to seize power in two or three months, then the struggle against them next year will be much harder than in this. All revolutionary plans laid out for two, three, or five years in advance will prove to be only wretched and disgraceful twaddle, if the working class allows the fascists to gain power in the course of the next two, three, or five months. In the polity of revolutionary crises, the calculation of time is of just as decisive importance as it is in war operations.

Let us take another, more remote example for the clarification of our idea. Hugo Urbahns, who considers himself a “Left Communist” declares the German party bankrupt , politically done for, and proposes to create a new party. If Urbahns were right, it would mean that the victory of the fascists is certain. For, in order to create a new party, years are required (and there has been nothing to prove that the party of Urbahns would in any sense be better than Thälmann’s party: when Urbahns was at the head of the party, there were by no means fewer mistakes).

Yes, should the fascists really conquer power, that would mean not only the physical destruction of the Communist Party, but veritable political bankruptcy for it. An ignominious defeat in a struggle against bands of human rubbish – would never be forgiven the Communist International and its German section by the many-millioned German proletariat. The seizure of power by the fascists would therefore most probably signify the necessity of creating a new revolutionary party, and in all likelihood also a new International. That would be a frightful historical catastrophe. But to assume today that all this is unavoidable can be done only by genuine liquidators, those who under the mantle of hollow phrases are really hastening to capitulate like cravens in the face of the struggle and without a struggle. With this conception we Bolshevik-Leninists, who are called “Trotskyists” by the Stalinists, have nothing in common.

We are unshakably convinced that the victory over the fascists is possible – not after their coming to power, not after five, ten, or twenty years of their rule, but now, under the given conditions, in the coming months and weeks.

Thälmann Considers the Victory of Fascism Inevitable

A correct policy is necessary in order to achieve victory. That is, we need a policy appropriate to the present situation, to the present relationship of forces, and not to the situation that may develop in one, two, or three years, when the question of power will already have been decided for a long time.

The whole misfortune lies in the fact that the policy of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party, in part consciously and in part unconsciously, proceeds from the recognition of the inevitability of a fascist victory. In fact, in the appeal for the “Red United Front” published on November 29, 1931, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany proceeds from the idea that it is impossible to defeat fascism without first defeating the Social Democracy. The same idea is repeated in all possible shades in Thälmann’s article. Is this idea correct? On the historical scale it is unconditionally correct. But that does not at all mean that with its aid, that is, by simple repetition, one can solve the questions of the day. An idea, correct from the point of view of revolutionary strategy as a whole, is converted into a lie and at that into a reactionary lie, if it is not translated into the language of tactics. Is it correct that in order to destroy unemployment and misery it is first necessary to destroy capitalism? It is correct. But only the biggest blockhead can conclude from all this, that we do not have to fight this very day, with all of our forces, against the measures with whose aid capitalism is increasing the misery of the workers.

Can we expect that in the course of the next few months the Communist Party will defeat both the Social Democracy and fascism? No normal-thinking person who can read and calculate would risk such a contention. Politically, the question stands like this: Can we successfully repel fascism now, in the course of the next few months, that is, with the existence of a greatly weakened, but still (unfortunately) very strong Social Democracy? The Central Committee replies in the negative. In other words, Thälmann considers the victory of fascism inevitable.

Once Again: The Russian Experience

In order to express my thought as clearly and as concretely as possible I will come back once more to the experience with the Kornilov uprising. On August 26 (old style), 1917, General Kornilov led his Cossack corps and one irregular division against Petrograd. At the helm of power stood Kerensky, lackey of the bourgeoisie and three-quarters a confederate of Kornilov. Lenin was still in hiding because of the accusation that he was in the service of the Hohenzollerns. For the same accusation, I was at that time incarcerated in solitary confinement in Kresty Prison. How did the Bolsheviks proceed in this question? They also had a right to say: “In order to defeat the Korniloviad – we must first defeat the Kerenskiad.” They said this more than once, for it was correct and necessary for all the subsequent propaganda. But that was entirely inadequate for offering resistance to Kornilov on August 26, and on the days that followed, and for preventing him from butchering the Petrograd proletariat. That is why the Bolsheviks did not content themselves with a general appeal to the workers and soldiers to break with the conciliators and to support the red united front of the Bolsheviks. No, the Bolsheviks proposed the united front struggle to the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries and created together with them joint organizations of struggle. Was this correct or incorrect? Let Thälmann answer that. In order to show even more vividly how matters stood with the united front, I will cite the following incident: immediately upon my release after the trade unions had put up bail for me, I went directly to the Committee for National Defense, where I discussed and adopted decisions regarding the struggle against Kornilov with the Menshevik Dan and the Social Revolutionary Gotz [2], allies of Kerensky who had kept me in prison. Was this right or wrong? Let Remmele answer that.

Is Brüning the “Lesser Evil”?

The Social Democracy supports Brüning, votes for him, assumes responsibility for him before the masses-on the grounds that the Brüning government is the “lesser evil.” Die Rote Fahne attempts to ascribe the same view to me – on the grounds that I expressed myself against the stupid and shameful participation of the Communists in the Hitler referendum. But have the German Left Opposition and myself in particular demanded that the Communists vote for and support Brüning? We Marxists regard Brüning and Hitler, Braun included, as component parts of one and the same system. The question as to which one of them is the “lesser evil” has no sense, for the system we are fighting against needs all these elements. But these elements are momentarily involved in conflicts with one another and the party of the proletariat must take advantage of these conflicts in the interest of the revolution.

There are seven keys in the musical scale. The question as to which of these keys is “better” – do, re, or sol – is a nonsensical question. But the musician must know when to strike and what keys to strike. The abstract question of who is the lesser evil – Brüning or Hitler – is just as nonsensical. It is necessary to know which of these keys to strike. Is that clear? For the feeble-minded let us cite another example. When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not at all mean that the poison is a “lesser evil” in comparison with the revolver.

The misfortune consists precisely of the fact that the leaders of the German Communist Party have placed themselves on the same ground as the Social Democracy, only with inverted prefixes: the Social Democracy votes for Brüning, recognizing in him the lesser evil. The Communists, on the other hand, who refuse to trust either Braun or Brüning in any way (and that is absolutely the right way to act), go into the streets to support Hitler’s referendum, that is, the attempt of the fascists to overthrow Brüning. But by this they themselves have recognized in Hitler the lesser evil, for the victory of the referendum would not have brought the proletariat into power, but Hitler. To be sure, it is painful to have to argue over such ABC questions. It is sad, very sad indeed, when musicians like Remmele, instead of distinguishing between the keys, stamp with their boots on the keyboard.

It is Not a Question of the Workers Who Have Already Left the Social Democracy,
But of Those Who Still Remain With It

The thousands upon thousands of Noskes, Welses, and Hilferdings prefer, in the last analysis, fascism to Communism. [3] But for that they must once and for all tear themselves loose from the workers. Today this is not yet the case. Today the Social Democracy as a whole, with all its internal antagonisms, is forced into sharp conflict with the fascists. It is our task to take advantage of this conflict and not to unite the antagonists against us.

The front must now be directed against fascism. And this common front of direct struggle against fascism, embracing the entire proletariat, must be utilized in the struggle against the Social Democracy, directed as a flank attack, but no less effective for all that.

It is necessary to show by deeds a complete readiness to make a bloc with the Social Democrats against the fascists in all cases in which they will accept a bloc. To say to the Social Democratic workers: “Cast your leaders aside and join our “nonparty” united front” means to add just one more hollow phrase to a thousand others. We must understand how to tear the workers away from their leaders in reality. But reality today is-the struggle against fascism. There are and doubtless will be Social Democratic workers who are prepared to fight hand in hand with the Communist workers against the fascists, regardless of the desires or even against the desires of the Social Democratic organizations. With such progressive elements it is obviously necessary to establish the closest possible contact. At the present time, however, they are not great in number. The German worker has been raised in the spirit of organization and of discipline. This has its strong as well as its weak sides. The overwhelming majority of the Social Democratic workers will fight against the fascists, but – for the present at least – only together with their organizations. This stage cannot be skipped. We must help the Social Democratic workers in action – in this new and extraordinary situation – to test the value of their organizations and leaders at this time, when it is a matter of life and death for the working class.

We Must Force the Social Democracy into a Bloc Against the Fascists

The trouble is that in the Central Committee of the Communist Party there are many frightened opportunists. They have heard that opportunism consists of a love for blocs, and that is why they are against blocs. They do not understand the difference between, let us say, a parliamentary agreement and an ever-so-modest agreement for struggle in a strike or in defense of workers’ printshops against fascist bands.

Election agreements, parliamentary compromises concluded between the revolutionary party and the Social Democracy serve, as a rule, to the advantage of the Social Democracy. Practical agreements for mass action, for purposes of struggle, are always useful to the revolutionary party. The Anglo-Russian Committee was an impermissible type of bloc of two leaderships on one common political platform, vague, deceptive, binding no one to any action at all. The maintenance of this bloc at the time of the British General Strike, when the General Council assumed the role of strikebreaker, signified, on the part of the Stalinists, a policy of betrayal. [4]

No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself, with his grandmother, and even with Noske and Grezesinsky. [5] On one condition, not to bind one’s hands.

It is necessary, without any delay, finally to elaborate a practical system of measures – not with the aim of merely “exposing” the Social Democracy (before the Communists), but with the aim of actual struggle against fascism. The question of factory defense organizations, of unhampered activity on the part of the factory councils, the inviolability of the workers’ organizations and institutions, the question of arsenals that may be seized by the fascists, the question of measures in the case of an emergency, that is, of the coordination of the actions of the Communist and the Social Democratic divisions in the struggle, etc., etc., must be dealt with in this program.

In the struggle against fascism, the factory councils occupy a tremendously important position. Here a particularly precise program of action is necessary. Every factory must become an anti-fascist bulwark, with its own commandants and its own battalions. It is necessary to have a map of the fascist barracks and all other fascist strongholds, in every city and in every district The fascists are attempting to encircle the revolutionary strongholds. The encirclers must be encircled. On this basis, an agreement with the Social Democratic and trade-union organizations is not only permissible, but a duty. To reject this for reasons of “principle” (in reality because of bureaucratic stupidity, or what is still worse, because of cowardice) is to give direct and immediate aid to fascism.

A practical program of agreements with the Social Democratic workers was proposed by us as far back as September 1930 (The Turn in the Comintern and the German Situation), that is, a year and a quarter ago. What has the leadership undertaken in this direction? Next to nothing. The Central Committee of the Communist Party has taken up everything except that which constitutes its direct task. How much valuable, irretrievable time has been lost! As a matter of fact, not much time is left. The program of action must be strictly practical, strictly objective, to the point, without any of those artificial “claims,” without any reservations, so that every average Social Democratic worker can say to himself. what the Communists propose is completely indispensable for the struggle against fascism. On this basis, we must pull the Social Democratic workers along with us by our example, and criticize their leaders who will inevitably serve as a check and a brake. Only in this way is victory possible.

A Good Quotation From Lenin

The present-day epigones, that is, the thoroughly bad disciples of Lenin, like to cover up their shortcomings on every occasion that offers itself with quotations – often entirely irrelevant. For Marxists, the question is not decided by a quotation, but by means of the correct method. If one is guided by correct methods, it is not hard also to find suitable quotations. After I had drawn the above analogy with the Kornilov insurrection, I said to myself: We can probably find a theoretical elucidation of our bloc with the conciliators in the struggle against Kornilov, in Lenin. And here is what I actually found in the second part of Volume XIV of the Russian edition, in a letter from Lenin to the Central Committee, written at the beginning of September 1917:

“Even at the present time, we are not duty-bound to support the Kerensky government That would be unprincipled. It is asked: then we are not to fight against Kornilov? Of course we are. But that is not one and the same thing. There is a limit to this; it is being transgressed by many Bolsheviks who fail into ‘conciliationism’ and allow themselves to be driven by the current of events.

“We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, but we do not support Kerensky; we are uncovering his weaknesses. The distinction is rather delicate, but highly important and must not be forgotten.

“What does the change of our tactics consist of after the Kornilov insurrection?

“In this, that we are varying the forms of struggle against Kerensky. Without diminishing our hostility to him even by one single note, without taking back one word from what we have said against him, without giving up the task of overthrowing Kerensky, we say: we must calculate the moment. We will not overthrow Kerensky at present. We approach the question of the struggle against him differently: by explaining the weaknesses and vacillations of Kerensky to the people (who are fighting against Kornilov).”

We are proposing nothing different. Complete independence of the Communist organization and press, complete freedom of Communist criticism, the same for the Social Democracy and the trade unions. Only contemptible opportunists can allow the freedom of the Communist Party to be limited (for example, as in the entrance into the Kuomintang). We are not of their number.

No retraction of our criticism of the Social Democracy. No forgetting of all that has been. The whole historical reckoning, including the reckoning for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg [6], will be presented at the proper time, just as the Russian Bolsheviks finally presented a general reckoning to the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries for the baiting, calumny, imprisonment and murder of workers, soldiers, and peasants.

But we presented our general reckoning to them two months after we had utilized the partial reckoning between Kerensky and Kornilov, between the “democrats” and the fascists – in order to drive back the fascists all the more certainly. Only thanks to this circumstance were we victorious.

When the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany adopts the position expressed in the quotation from Lenin cited above, the entire approach to the Social Democratic masses and the trade-union organizations will change at once: instead of the articles and speeches which are convincing only to those people who are already convinced without them, the agitators will find a common language with new hundreds of thousands and millions of workers. The differentiation within the Social Democracy will proceed at an increased pace. The fascists will soon feel that their task does not at all consist merely of defeating Brüning, Braun, and Wels, but of taking up the open struggle against the whole working class. On this plane, a profound differentiation win inevitably be produced within fascism. Only by this road is victory possible.

But it is necessary to desire this victory. In the meantime, there are among the Communist officials not a few cowardly careerists and fakers whose little posts, whose incomes, and more than that, whose hides, are dear to them. These creatures are very much inclined to spout ultraradical phrases beneath which is concealed a wretched and contemptible fatalism. “Without a victory over the Social Democracy, we cannot battle against fascism!” say such terrible revolutionists, and for this reason … they get their passports ready.

Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!

[Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm


Postscript by IWPCHI:

Liberals and fake-socialists denigrate the revolutionary Trotskyists’ adherence to dialectical materialism, the scientific method of analyzing the class basis for every political movement which, if properly utilized in a Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist manner, enables us to predict – not perfectly, but with a high degree of accuracy – the roles which will be played by every political actor presently on the historical stage.  The apologists for bourgeois democracy, lovers of “common sense” laugh at us – but what bourgeois politician, Stalinist blowhard or social democrat in Germany or anywhere else in the world saw as clearly what the future would bring as did Trotsky?  He urged the Communist Party of Germany to abandon their idiotic Stalinist programme that equated the Social Democrats and the Nazis as one and the same; he urged the Communists to form a united front with the Social Democrats against the Nazis.  By the time the CP tried at the last minute to steer the ship of workers revolution away from the fascist shoals lying dead ahead it was too late.  The Stalinized Communist Party of Germany bears a large degree of the blame for the rise of Hitler;  the Stalinized Comintern’s zigzagging political programs of the 1920s and ’30s that had disoriented their party to such a degree had simultaneously created a breach in the working class forces which Hitler was able to bludgeon his way through, enabling his long rise to power.  If we are to successfully stop the rise of fascism in the US today, we must learn the hard lessons of the failure of the revolutionary workers parties to do so in Germany in the 1930s.  We, too can not count on the rise of fascism in the US to be a long, gradual ascent; fascism is far more prone to sudden leaps forward as we saw this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA.  The fascists have leaped far ahead of the level of development of the antifascist forces.  Unless we immediately begin to organize and build revolutionary socialist parties and workers defense brigades to smash the rising fascist threat, we might very well face the same dire penalty our revolutionary worker-ancestors faced in Germany in the 1930s.  Small, disorganized groups of even the bravest anti-fascist workers are no match for heavily-armed fascist killers backed by the cops, courts and government.  We need to organize the power of the entire multiracial US working class to stop the rise of fascism and to fight ultimately to overthrow the capitalist system which gives rise to the fascist gangs.  Once the working class is in power the fascists will be denied the ability to ever raise their heads again, just as the monarchists were never able to show their faces after the American Revolution.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ Consistently Revolutionary Marxist Programme on the Question of War

In our last article we excoriated the New York Times’ publication of an “opinion piece” in which a hack writer regurgitated the tired old lie that the great Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was “a German agent”.  In this next series of articles we will demonstrate the tremendous theoretical consitency of the Bolsheviks’ interventions in the major international conferences of the Second International regarding the questions of militarism and war.  These articles will demonstrate that in 1917 the Bolsheviks’ determination to oppose Russia’s participation in the horrendous imperialist bloodbath of WWI was first declared to the world ten years earlier – in 1907’s Stuttgart Congress of the Second International.  The absurdity of the claim that Lenin was carrying out the orders given to him by the Kaiser in November of 1917 in exchange for “safe passage” on a “sealed train” through “wartime Europe” is fully and completely exposed as an attempt to falsify the historical record and to slander the greatest revolutionary socialist workers leader and workers party the world has ever known: Lenin and his Bolshevik Party.

— IWPCHI

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V. I. Lenin
The International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart[1] (Proletary)

Written: Written at the end of August and beginning of September 1907
Published: Published in Proletary, No. 17, October 20, 1907. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 75-81.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source. • README

[Large portion of article has been edited out so we can focus attention on the Bolshevik intervention at the Congress on the question of war and militarism and what should be the response of the various sections of the Second International to an outbreak of war between any number of countries – IWPCHI]

We pass now to the last, and perhaps the most important, resolution of the Congress—that on anti-militarism. The notorious Hervé, who has made such a noise in France and Europe, advocated a semi-anarchist view by naively suggesting that every war be “answered” by a strike and an uprising. He did not understand, on the one hand, that war is a necessary product of capitalism, and that the proletariat cannot renounce participation in revolutionary wars, for such wars are possible, and have indeed occurred in capitalist societies. He did not understand, on the other hand, that the possibility of “answering” a war depends on the nature of the crisis created by that war. The choice of the means of struggle depends on these conditions; moreover, the struggle must consist (and here we have the third misconception, or shallow thinking of Hervéism) not simply in replacing war by peace, but in replacing capitalism by socialism. The essential thing is not merely to prevent war, but to utilise the crisis created by war in order to has ten the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. However, underlying all these semi-anarchist absurdities of Hervéism there was one sound and practical purpose: to spur the socialist movement so that it will not be restricted to parliamentary methods of struggle alone, so that the masses will realise the need for revolutionary action in connection with the crises which war inevitably involves, so that, lastly, a more lively understanding of international labour solidarity and of the falsity of bourgeois patriotism will be spread among the masses.

Bebel’s resolution (move.d by the Germans and coinciding in all essentials with Guesde’s resolution) had one shortcoming—it failed to indicate the active tasks of the proletariat. This made it possible to read Bebel’s orthodox propositions through opportunist spectacles, and Vollmar was quick to turn this possibility into a reality.

That is why Rosa Luxemburg and the Russian Social-Democratic delegates moved their amendments to Bebel’s resolution. These amendments (1) stated that militarism is the chief weapon of class oppression; (2) pointed out the need for propaganda among the youth; (3) stressed that Social-Democrats should not only try to prevent war from breaking out or to secure the speediest termination of wars that have already begun, but should utilise the crisis created by the war to hasten the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

The subcommission (elected by the Anti-Militarism Commission) incorporated all these amendments in Bebel’s resolution. In addition, Jaurès made this happy suggestion: instead of enumerating the methods of struggle (strikes, uprisings) the resolution should cite historical examples of proletarian action against war, from the demonstrations in Europe to the revolution in Russia. The result of all this redrafting was a resolution which, it is true, is unduly long, but is rich in thought and precisely formulates the tasks of the proletariat. It combines the stringency of orthodox—i. e., the only scientific Marxist analysis with recommendations for the most resolute and revolutionary action by the workers’ parties. This resolution cannot be interpreted à la Vollmar, nor can it be fitted into the narrow framework of naïve Hervéism.

On the whole, the Stuttgart Congress brought into sharp contrast the opportunist and revolutionary wings of the international Social-Democratic movement on a number of cardinal issues and decided these issues in the spirit of revolutionary Marxism. Its resolutions and the report of the debates should become a handbook for every propagandist. The work done at Stuttgart will greatly promote the unity of tactics and unity of revolutionary struggle of the proletarians of all countries.
Notes

[1] The International Socialist Congress In Stuttgart (the Seventh Congress of the Second International) was held from August 18 to 24 (new style), 1907. The R.S.D.L.P. was represented at it by 37 delegates. Among the Bolshevik delegates attending the Congress were Lenin, Lunacharsky, and Litvinov. The Congress considered the following questions: 1) Militarism and international conflicts; 2) Relations between the political parties and the trade unions; 3) The colonial question; 4) Immigration and emigration of workers, and 5) Women’s suffrage.

The main work of the Congress was in the committees, where resolutions were drafted for the plenary sessions. Lenin was on the “Militarism and International Conflicts” Committee.

[2] The issue of Proletary (No. 17) which published this article also contained the resolution of the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart.

[3] See Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Moscow, p. 595.

[4] Voinov—A. V. Lunacharsky.

[5] Die Gleichheit (Equality)—a Social-Democratic fortnightly journal, organ of the German women’s movement (later it became the organ of international women’s movement), published in Stuttgart from 1890 to 1925 and edited by Clara Zetkin from 1892 to 1917.

The Origins of Exposing Government Secrets: The Russian Revolution Leads to Publication of Secret Treaties of “Democratic Europe”

As you can imagine, we love the Russian Revolution of 1917, which was one of the most successful and bold of all time and which initially attempted, heroically and against daunting odds, to bring the concept of a workers revolutionary government from the realm of theory into practice.

The Russian Revolution triumphed because Tsarism had completely discredited itself among the people of Russia.  The nation was exhausted by its participation in WWI, which, by late 1917, saw Russian peasants and workers being conscripted and sent to the front without weapons, or even shoes.  Alone among the opposition to the Tsarist government, the Bolsheviks promised the country that if they took power, the first act of the revolutionary socialist government would be to declare an end to the bloodbath the capitalists of the world had plunged the workers into since 1914.  And the Bolsheviks kept their word – to the horror and shock of the capitalist world, who were making quite massive profits from the bloodbath in Europe.

Another promise the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky made – and kept – was their promise upon seizing power to publish the full text of all the secret treaties that had been worked out between the “democratic” Allied powers for the redivision of the nations of the “third world” depending on which side “won” the war.  Of course, the “Great Democracies” denied that such treaties existed, but the Bolsheviks blew those lies to smithereens when they placed before the eyes of the entire world these priceless gems of bourgeois “diplomacy”, revealing its greedy, bloodthirsty and racist nature.  The damage done to human civilization by this post-WWI carve-up of the defeated countries reverberates to this day, especially in the Middle East.  The fact that the capitalist world has continued to lie to the workers for 100 additional years about its vicious secret “diplomacy” when we have known for more than a century just what a savage gang of scumbags they are is a sad commentary on the working class willingness to be led around like dogs on a leash by our capitalist “masters”.

We are pleased to present to our readers this early example of “whistleblowing” writ large, by the leaders of one of the great revolutionary movements of all time: the Bolsheviks.

The great Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky wrote this preface to the publication of the secret treaties:

“Secret diplomacy is a necessary weapon in the hands of a propertied minority, which is compelled to deceive the majority in order to make the latter obey its interests. Imperialism, with its world-wide plans of annexation, and its rapacious alliances and arrangements, has developed to the highest extent the system of secret diplomacy. The struggle against Imperialism, which has ruined and drained of their blood the peoples of Europe, means at the same time the struggle against capitalist diplomacy, which has good reason to fear the light of day. The Russian people, as well as the peoples of Europe and of the whole world, must know the documentary truth about those plots which were hatched in secret by financiers and industrialists, together with their Parliamentary and diplomatic agents. The peoples of Europe have earned the right to know the truth about these things, owing to their innumerable sacrifices and the universal economic ruin.

“To abolish secret diplomacy is the first condition of an honourable, popular, and really democratic foreign policy. The Soviet Government makes the introduction of such a policy its object. For this reason, while openly offering to all the belligerent peoples and their Governments an immediate armistice, we publish simultaneously those treaties and agreements which have lost all their obligatory force for the Russian workmen, soldiers, and peasants, who have taken the Government into their hands….

“Bourgeois politicians and journalists of Germany and Austria-Hungary may endeavour to profit by the published documents in order to represent in a favourable light the diplomacy of the Central Empires. But every effort in this direction would be doomed to failure for two reasons. In the first place we intend shortly to put before the public secret documents which will show up clearly the diplomacy of the Central Empires. In the second place-and this is the chief point-the methods of secret diplomacy are just as international as Imperialist rapacity. When the German proletariat by revolutionary means gets access to the secrets of its Government chancelleries, it will produce from them documents of just the same nature as those which we are now publishing. It is to be hoped that this will happen as soon as possible.

“The Government of workmen and peasants abolishes secret diplomacy, with its intrigues, figures, and lies. We have nothing to conceal. Our programme formulates the passionate wishes of millions of workmen, soldiers, and peasants. We desire a speedy peace, so that the peoples may honourably live and work together. We desire a speedy deposition of the supremacy of capital. In revealing before the whole world the work of the governing classes as it is expressed in the secret documents of diplomacy, we turn to the workers with that appeal which will always form the basis of our foreign policy: ‘Proletariats of all countries, unite!’

“L. TROTSKI, People’s Commissioner for Foreign Affairs.”*

Enjoy!

IWPCHI

The Secret Treaties and Understandings

This text is courtesy of and copyrighted by the Great War Primary Document Archive at http://www.gwpda.org/