Tuesday, October 05, 2010

*From The Communist Archives- The Struggle Against Class Collaboration In The Anti-War Movement- The Zimmerwald Conference of 1915-Draft resolution of the leftwing delegates (Lenin)

Markin comment:

On a day when I am in high dudgeon after the October 2nd One Nation Democratic Party pep rally (that is what it was, politically, as intended by the organizers) I will keep this one short and sweet for now. And let history speak, the history of real anti-war work done in the throes of World War I, the Zimmerwald conference. I am glad that this One Nation demonstration occurred now as a "show of colors." But, politically, it was a rally to stir up the troops for the Democrats in November and nothing more. Christ, I am glad our committee did not endorse this thing. It is now clear, clearer than ever, that we have much, much, much work to do to get people to break from Obama's wars, and Obama's party. For those who think along those same lines going back to Zimmerwald in 1915 is like a breathe of fresh air.

With that sense of history in mind , and with and understanding that our anti-war tasks are about the same now as then, and as daunting, I am posting some thoughts from a recent comment concerning a few steps in my own personal anti-war evolution in the early 1960s that seem germane today because I have run up against many of the arguments recently:

“…In many ways 1965 was a watershed year in the struggle against the Kennedy-Johnson Vietnam War. Not only was there a grievous escalation of troop levels and bombing attacks based on the usual frame-up set-up (the Gulf of Tonkin incident) that seem to be conveniently available when the tom-toms of war get beating but the fledgling anti-war movement (at least in the East) was getting organized in more than a token manner. Thus, on the serious matter of which way forward for that movement in order to drive it to victory those New York meetings (the early meetings to organize the growing opposition to the Vietnam War-Markin), the epicenter of the East Coast opposition, took on added meaning both for the immediate struggle against the war and the long term prospects for a real anti-imperialist opposition to American aggression in the world. And, maybe, more.

Listen though, in 1965, I was at the height of my Catholic Worker/ Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)-tinged left liberal pacifistic political views. Although not philosophically absolutely committed to non-violence or to working totally within the parliamentary system I was no embryonic Bolshevik ready to raise all kinds of hell. I still believed that “sweet” reason could be brought into play in bourgeois politics and the “better angels of our nature” (a term that I was fond of even then) would prevail. I was in no way hostile to communists, of whatever tendency, but merely saw them as another set of partners in the struggle against war. In short, I held a very popular frontist attitude, to use a term of art in our communist movement that I was not familiar with, and would not have used, then.

All of the above is by way of saying that had I been at the New York anti-war meetings, as I had been at various Boston meetings with the same kind of groups, including SANE (a group that I had worked with on their nuclear disarmament campaigns in the very early 1960s) which drove anti-war efforts around here in those days, I would have been nonplussed by the wishy-washy politics of using “sweet” reason on the Johnson Administration (basically coalescing around “stop the war” versus “immediate, unconditional withdrawal of American troops” slogans). Now, of course, long after the fact, I can see that the commitment of the vast majority of anti-war groups to “sweet” reason toward Johnson Administration war policy and a commitment to an essentially pacifist, parliamentary opposition that could easily be pieced off was doomed to failure. Failure, that is if the object, as it was for me, was to stop the bloody bastards in their tracks.

Fortunately the North Vietnamese army (DNV) and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam took matters into their own hands and saved the day by beating the American imperialist forces and ending the war. No one can say truthfully that the American anti-war movement was minimal in that effort but it was, in the end, hardly decisive as some would have it in the fog of memory. Those famous pictures of the United States Embassy in Saigon being frantically and desperately evacuated by helicopter from the rooftops graphically make the point for those who want to argue otherwise.

History is full of little twists and turns, and maybe, just maybe, we can learn something from studying it. Here is the lesson that we can use today. The next time that you are in an anti-war planning meeting and someone argues for immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all troops and mercenaries from (name the then current imperial adventure) as a central slogan for an anti-war demonstration vote for that proposal with both hands (and feet if you have to). That, in effect, is today’s anti-war version of those 1965 events.”

International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald

Draft resolution of the leftwing delegates

First Published: International Socialist Commission at Berne, Bulletin No. 2, p. 14, November 27, 1915;
Source: Bolsheviks and War, Lessons for today's anti-war movement, by Sam Macey 1985;
Translated: by Sam Macey.

The World War, which has been devastating Europe for the last year, is an imperialist war waged for the political and economic exploitation of the world, export markets, sources of raw material, spheres of capital investment, etc. It is a product of capitalist development which connects the entire world in a world economy, but at the same time permits the existence of national state capitalist groups with opposing interests.

If the bourgeoisie and the governments seek to conceal this character of the World War by asserting that it is a question of a forced struggle for national independence, it is only to mislead the proletariat, since the war is being waged for the oppression of foreign peoples and countries. Equally untruthful are the legends concerning the defense of democracy in this war, since imperialism signifies the most unscrupulous domination of big capital and political reaction.

Imperialism can only be overcome by overcoming the contradictions which produce it, that is, by the Socialist organization of the advanced capitalist countries for which the objective conditions are already ripe.

At the outbreak of the war, the majority of the labor leaders had not raised this only possible slogan in opposition to imperialism. Prejudiced by nationalism, rotten with opportunism, at the beginning of the World War they betrayed the proletariat to imperialism and gave up the principles of Socialism and thereby the real struggle for the everyday interests of the proletariat.

Social-patriotism and social-imperialism, the standpoint of the openly patriotic majority of the formerly Social-Democratic leaders in Germany, as well as the opposition-mannered center of the party around Kautsky, and to which in France and Austria the majority, in England and Russia a part of the leaders (Hyndman, the Fabians, the Trade-Unionists, Plekhanov, Rubanovich, the Nasha Zarya group) confess, is a more dangerous enemy to the proletariat than the bourgeois apostles of imperialism, since, misusing the banner of Socialism, it can mislead the unenlightened workers. The ruthless struggle against social-imperialism constitutes the first condition for the revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat and the reconstruction of the International.

It is the task of the Socialist parties, as well as of the Socialist opposition in the now social-imperialist parties, to call and lead the laboring masses to the revolutionary struggle against the capitalist governments for the conquest of political power for the Socialist organization of society.

Without giving up the struggle for every foot of ground within the framework of capitalism, for every reform strengthening the proletariat, without renouncing any means of organization and agitation, the revolutionary Social-Democrats, on the contrary, must utilize all the struggles, all the reforms demanded by our minimum program for the purpose of sharpening this war crisis as well as every social and political crisis of capitalism of extending them to an attack upon its very foundations. By waging this struggle under the slogan of Socialism it will render the laboring masses immune to the slogans of the oppression of one people by another as expressed in the maintenance of the domination of one nation over another, in the cry for new annexations; it will render them deaf to the temptations of national solidarity which has led the proletarians to the battlefields.

The signal for this struggle is the struggle against the World War, for the speedy termination of the slaughter of nations. This struggle demands the refusal of war credits, quitting the cabinets, the denunciation of the capitalist, anti-Socialist character of the war from the tribunes of the parliaments, in the columns of the legal, and where necessary illegal, press, the sharpest struggle against social-patriotism, and the utilization of every movement of the people caused by the results of the war (misery, great losses etc.) for the organization of street demonstrations against the governments, propaganda of international solidarity in the trenches, the encouragement of economic strikes, the effort to transform them into political strikes under favorable conditions. Civil war, not civil peace – that is the slogan!

As against all illusions that it is possible to bring about the basis of a lasting peace, the beginning of disarmament, by any decisions of diplomats and the governments, the revolutionary Social-Democrats must repeatedly tell the masses of the people that only the social revolution can bring about a lasting peace and the emancipation of humanity.


Note: This draft resolution was signed by two representatives of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (Zinoviev and Lenin), a representative of the Opposition of the Polish Social-Democracy (Radek), a representative of the Latvian province (Winter), a representative each of the Left Social-Democrats of Sweden (Hoglund) and Norway (Nerman), a Swiss delegate (Platten), and a German delegate. On the question of submitting the draft to the commission, 12 delegates voted for (the eight mentioned above, two Socialist-Revolutionaries, Trotsky, and Roland-Holst) and 19 against.

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