Monday, February 01, 2016

As The 100th Anniversary Of World War I Enters Its Second Year-The Anti-War Resistance Begins- Lenin

As The 100th Anniversary Of World War I Enters Its Second Year-The Anti-War Resistance Begins- Lenin  

The events leading up to World War I (known as the Great War before the world got clogged up with expansive wars in need of other numbers and names and reflecting too in that period before World War II a certain sense of “pride” in having participated in such an epic adventure even if it did mow down the flower of European youth from all classes) from the massive military armament of almost all the capitalist and imperialist parties in Europe and elsewhere in order to stake their claims to their unimpeded share of the world’s resources had all the earmarks of a bloodbath early on once the industrial-sized carnage set in with the stalemated fronts (as foretold by the blood-letting in the American Civil War and the various “small” wars in Asia, Africa, and, uh, Europe in the mid to late 19th century once war production on a mass scale followed in the train of other industrial production). Also trampled underfoot in the opposing trenches, or rather thrown in the nearest trash bin of the their respective parliamentary buildings were the supposedly eternal pledges against war in defense of one’s own capitalist-imperialist  nation-state against the working masses and their allies of other countries by most of the Social-Democrats and other militant leftist formations (Anarchists, Syndicalists and their various off-shoots)representing the historic interest of the international working-class to stop those imperialist capitalist powers and their hangers-on in their tracks at the approach of war were decisive for 20th century history. All those beautifully written statements and resolutions that clogged up the international conferences with feelings of solidarity were some much ill-fated wind once bullet one came out of gun one.

Other than isolated groups and individuals, mostly like Lenin and Trotsky in exile or jail, and mostly in the weaker lesser capitalistically developed countries of Europe the blood lust got the better of most of the working class and its allies as young men rushed to the recruiting stations to “do their duty” and prove their manhood. (When the first international conference of anti-war socialists occurred in Switzerland in 1915 one wag pointed out that they could all fit in one tram [bus].) Almost all parties assuming that the damn thing would be over by Christmas and everyone could go back to the eternal expressions of international working-class solidarity after the smoke had settled (and the simple white-crossed graves dug). You see, and the logic is beautiful on this one, that big mail-drop of a Socialist International, was built for peace-time but once the cannon roared then the “big tent” needed to be folded for the duration. Jesus.  

Decisive as well as we head down the slope to the first months of the second year of the war although shrouded in obscurity early in the war in exile was the soon to be towering figure of one Vladimir Lenin (a necessary nom de guerre in the hell broth days of the Czar’s Okhrana ready to send one and all to the Siberian frosts and that moniker business, that nom de guerre not a bad idea in today’s NSA-driven frenzy to know all, to peep at all), leader of the small Russian Bolshevik Party ( a Social-Democratic Party in name anyway adhering to the Second International under the sway of the powerful German party although not for long because “Long Live The Communist International,”  a new revolutionary international, would become the order of the day in the not distant future), architect of the theory of the “vanguard party” building off of many revolutionary experiences in Russia and Europe in the 19th century (including forbears Marx and Engels), and author of an important, important to the future communist world perspective, study on the monopolizing tendencies of world imperialism, the ending of the age of “progressive” capitalism (in the Marxist sense of the term progressive in a historical materialist sense that capitalism was progressive against feudalism and other older economic models which turned into its opposite at this dividing point in history), and the hard fact that it was a drag on the possibilities of human progress and needed to be replaced by the establishment of the socialist order. But that is the wave of the future as 1914 turns to 1915 in the sinkhole trenches of Europe that are already a death trap for the flower of the European youth.  

Lenin also has a "peace" plan, a peace plan of sorts, a way out of the stinking trench warfare stalemate eating up the youth of the Eurasian landmass. Do what should have been done from the beginning, do what all the proclamations from all the beautifully-worded socialist manifestos called on the international working-class to do. Not a simple task by any means especially in that first year when almost everybody on all sides thought a little blood-letting would be good for the soul, the individual national soul, and in any case the damn thing would be over by Christmas and everybody could start producing those beautifully worded-manifestos against war again. (That by Christmas peace “scare” turned out to be a minute “truce” from below by English and German soldiers hungry for the old certainties banning the barbed wire and stinking trenches for a short reprieve in the trench fronts in France and played soccer before returning to drawn guns-a story made into song and which is today used as an example of what the lower ranks could do-if they would only turn the guns around. Damn those English and German soldiers never did turn the damn things around until too late and with not enough resolve and the whole world has suffered from that lack of resolve ever since.)

Lenin’s hard-headed proposition: turn the bloody world war among nations into a class war to drive out the war-mongers and bring some peace to the blood-soaked lands. But that advanced thinking is merely the wave of the future as the rat and rain-infested sinkhole trenches of Europe were already churning away in the first year as a death trap for the flower of the European youth.   

The ability to inflict industrial-sized slaughter and mayhem on a massive scale first portended toward the end of the American Civil War once the Northern industrial might tipped the scales their way as did the various German-induced wars attempting to create one nation-state out of various satraps almost could not be avoided in the early 20th century once the armaments race got serious, and the technology seemed to grow exponentially with each new turn in the war machine. The land war, the war carried out by the “grunts,” by the “cannon fodder” of many nations was only the tip of the iceberg and probably except for the increased cannon-power and range and the increased rapidity of the machine-guns would be carried out by the norms of the last wars. However the race for naval supremacy, or the race to take a big kink out of British supremacy, went on unimpeded as Germany tried to break-out into the Atlantic world and even Japan, Jesus, Japan tried to gain a big hold in the Asia seas.

The deeply disturbing submarine warfare wreaking havoc on commerce on the seas, the use of armed aircraft and other such technological innovations of war only added to the frenzy. We can hundred years ahead, look back and see where talk of “stabs in the back” by the losers and ultimately an armistice rather than decisive victory on the blood-drenched fields of Europe would lead to more blood-letting but it was not clear, or nobody was talking about it much, or, better, doing much about calling a halt before they began the damn thing among all those “civilized” nations who went into the abyss in July of 1914. Sadly the list of those who would not do anything, anything concrete, besides paper manifestos issued at international conferences, included the great bulk of the official European labor movement which in theory was committed to stopping the madness.

A few voices, voices like Karl Liebknecht (who against the party majority bloc voting scheme finally voted against the Kaiser’s war budget, went to the streets to get rousing anti-war speeches listened to in the workers’ districts, lost his parliamentary immunity and wound up honorably in the Kaiser’s  prisons) and Rosa Luxemburg ( the rose of the revolution also honorably prison bound) in Germany, Lenin and Trotsky in Russia (both exiled at the outbreak of war and just in time as being on “the planet without a passport” was then as now, dangerous to the lives of left-wing revolutionaries), some anti-war anarchists like Monette in France and here in America “Big Bill” Haywood (who eventually would controversially flee to Russia to avoid jail for his opposition to American entry into war), many of his IWW (Industrial Workers Of the World) comrades and the stalwart Eugene V. Debs (who also went to jail, “Club Fed” for speaking the truth about American war aims in a famous Cleveland speech and, fittingly, ran for president in 1920 out of his Atlanta Penitentiary jail cell),  were raised and one hundred years later those voices have a place of honor in this space.

Those voices, many of them in exile, or in the deportations centers, were being clamped down as well when the various imperialist governments began closing their doors to political refugees when they were committed to clapping down on their own anti-war citizens. As we have seen in our own times, most recently in America in the period before the “shock and awe” of the decimation of Iraq in 2002 and early 2003 the government, most governments, are able to build a war frenzy out of whole cloth. Even my old anti-war amigo from my hometown who after I got out of the American Army during the Vietnam War marched with me in countless rallies and parades trying to stop the madness got caught in the bogus information madness and supported Bush’s “paper war” although not paper for the benighted Iraqi masses ever since (and plenty of other “wise” heads from our generation of ’68 made that sea-change turn with him).

At those times, and in my lifetime the period after 9/11 when we tried in vain to stop the Afghan war in its tracks is illustrative, to be a vocal anti-warrior is a dicey business. A time to keep your head down a little, to speak softly and wait for the fever to subside and to be ready to begin the anti-war fight another day. “Be ready to fight” the operative words.

So imagine in the hot summer of 1914 when every nationality in Europe felt its prerogatives threatened how the fevered masses, including the beguiled working-classes bred on peace talk without substance, would not listen to the calls against the slaughter. Yes, one hundred years later is not too long or too late to honor those ardent anti-war voices as the mass mobilizations began in the countdown to war, began four years of bloody trenches and death.                  

Over the next period as we continue the long night of the 100th anniversary of World War I and beyond I will under this headline post various documents, manifestos and cultural expressions from that time in order to give a sense of what the lead up to that war looked like, the struggle against its outbreak before the first frenzied shots were fired, the forlorn struggle during and the massive struggles after it in places like Russia, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the hodge-podge colonies all over the world map, in order to create a newer world out of the shambles of the battlefields.  

To the Editors of Nashe Slovo[4]

Written: 9.2.1915
Published: First published 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 125-128.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). 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.
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Berne, 9.2.1915
Dear Comrades:
In your letter of February 6 you proposed to us a plan of struggle against “official social-patriotism”, in connection with the proposed London conference of socialists of the “allied countries” of the Triple Entente.[5] As you have, of course, seen from our newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat, we support that struggle in general, and are conducting it. That is why we are very glad to have received your message. and accept with pleasure your proposal for a discussion of a plan of joint action.
The conference, which is said to have been planned for February 15 (we have not yet received a single document regarding it), will perhaps be postponed until February 25 or later [judging from a letter from Huysmans, who wrote of the sitting of the Executive Commission for February 20 and of the plan for personal talks between members (the Secretary) of the Executive Commission and socialists of France, Britain and Russia]. The conference may possibly be contemplated as one, not of official members of the International Socialist Bureau, but as private meetings between individual “prominent” socialists.
That is why the contraposition to “official social-patriotism” of a “clear, revolutionary and internationalist” point of view, a contraposition which you write of and which has our full sympathy, should be prepared for all possible contingencies (both for a conference of the official representatives of parties and for a private meeting in all its forms, both for February 15 and for any later date).
For our part and in view of the desire you have expressed, we propose the following draft declaration, which contains such a contraposition (so that the declaration may be read and printed):
The undersigned representatives of the Social-Democratic organisations of Russia (Britain, etc.) proceed from the conviction:
that the present war is, on the part, not only of Germany and Austro-Hungary, but of Britain and France (acting in alliance with tsarism), an imperialist war, i.e., a war of the epoch of the final stage in the development of capitalism, an epoch in which bourgeois states, with their national boundaries, have outlived themselves; a war aimed exclusively at the grabbing of colonies, the plundering of rival countries, and the weakening of the proletarian movement by setting the proletarians of one country against those of another.
Consequently it is the absolute duty of the socialists of all belligerent countries immediately and resolutely to carry out the Basle resolution, viz.:
“(1) the break-up of all national blocs and the Burgfrteden[1] in all countries;
“(2) a call to the workers of all the belligerent countries to wage an energetic class struggle, both economic and political, against the bourgeoisie of their country, a bourgeoisie that is amassing unparalleled profits from war deliveries and makes use of the military authorities’ backing so as to gag the workers and intensify oppression of the latter;
“(3) decisive condemnation of any voting for war credits;
“(4) withdrawal from the bourgeois governments of Belgium and France, and recognition that entry into governments and voting for war credits are the same kind of treachery to the cause of socialism as is the entire behaviour of the German and Austrian Social-Democrats;
“(5) that the hand be stretched out to internationalist elements in German Social-Democracy that refuse to vote for war credits, and that an international committee be set up, together with them, for the conduct of agitation for the cessation of the war, not in the spirit of the pacifists,   the Christians, and the petty-bourgeois democrats, but in inseparable connection with the propaganda and organisation of mass revolutionary action by the proletarians of each country, against the governments and the bourgeoisie of that country;
“(6) support for any attempts by the socialists of the belligerent countries to bring about contacts and fraternisation in the fighting forces and the trenches, despite the bans imposed by the military authorities of Britain, Germany, etc.;
“(7) a call to women socialists of the belligerent countries to intensify agitation in the direction indicated above;
“(8) a call for support by the entire world proletariat of the struggle against tsarism, and for support for those -Social-Democrats of Russia who have not only refused to vote for credits, but have shown disregard of the danger of persecution and are conducting socialist work in the spirit of internationalist and revolutionary SocialDemocracy.”
*     *
As for certain Social-Democratic men of letters in Russia who have come out in defence of the official social-patriotism (as, for instance, Plekhanov, Alexinsky, Maslov, and others), the undersigned disclaim all responsibility for any action or statements by them, energetically protest against the latter, and declare that, according to all available information, the Social-Democratic workers of Russia do not hold that point of view.
It goes without saying that Comrade Litvinov, our Central Committee’s official representative in the International Socialist Bureau (his address[2] : We are sending him your letter and a copy of our reply to you. Please address him directly on all urgent matters), as he has been authorised to use his own judgement in the matter of all particular amendments, special steps in negotiations, etc.; we can merely state our complete solidarity with this comrade on all essential points.
As for the Organising Committee and the Bund, who are both represented in the International Socialist Bureau, we have grounds for apprehension that they stand for “official social-patriotism” (in its Francophile or Germanophile form, or in any other that would reconcile these two tendencies). At any rate we would appreciate your kindness in sending us both your reply (your amendments, your counter-draft of the resolution, etc.) and the reply of those organisations (the Organising Committee, the Bund, etc.) that you have already addressed or intend doing so.
With comradely greetings,
My address is:[3]


[1] class truce.—Ed.
[2] M. M. Litvinov’s address is not given in the MS—Ed.
[3] No address is given in the MS—Ed.
[4] Nashe Slovo (Our Word)—a Menshevik daily published in Paris from January 1915 to September 1916, instead of the newspaper Gobs.
Lenin’s letter to the newspaper was written in reply to the Nashe Slovo editors’ proposal for joint action against social  patriotism, in connection with the forthcoming London conference of Entente Socialists. Lenin agreed to the proposal and submitted a draft declaration addressed to the London Conference. He criticised the social-chauvinist position of the Menshevik Organising Committee and the Bund, whom the Nashe Slovo editors had approached with the same proposal. Nashe Slovo’s editors did not accept Lenin’s declaration, but drew up one of their own.
Following the London Conference, the Nashe Slovo editors again proposed to the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. that a joint conference of “internationalists” be held so as to define the attitude towards the war and the social-chauvinists. In his reply to the Nashe Slovo editors dated March 10 (23), 1915 (see pp. 165-68 of this volume), Lenin laid down a number of fundamental conditions for a union of genuine internationalists. Since the Nashe Slovo editors came out in defence of the Organising Committee and the Bund, Lenin discontinued the talks.
Nashe Slovo’s attempts at unification ended in an “ideological-political fiasco”, as Lenin put it. Lenin discussed this question in the following works published herein: “On the London Conference” (pp. 178-80), “The Question of the Unity of Internationalists” (pp. 188-91), “The Collapse of Platonic Internationalism” (pp. 194-98), “The State of Affairs in Russian Social-Democracy” (pp.281-86) and “Socialism and War” (pp. 335-38).
[5] The London Conference of Socialists of the “allied countries” of the Triple Entente met on February 14, 1915. Its delegates represented the social-chauvinists and the pacifist groups of the Socialist parties of Britain, France, Belgium, as well as the Russian Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries.
Though the Bolsheviks were not invited to the Conference, Litvinov (Maximovich) presented to the Conference the declaration of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., which was based on Lenin’s draft. The declaration demanded the withdrawal of socialists from bourgeois governments and a complete rupture with the imperialists; it called for an end to co-operation with the imperialist governments, a resolute struggle against the latter, and condemnation of voting for war credits. The chairman interrupted Litvinov as he was reading the declaration, and deprived him of the right to speak. The latter handed the declaration over to the presidium and left the Conference hail.
See Lenin’s articles “The London Conference” and “On the London Conference” (pp. 132-34, 178-80 of this volume). p. 125

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