‘The Battle Cry of a New International’ by S. J. Rutgers from International Socialist Review. Vol. 16. No. 11. May, 1916.

Zimmerwald, Switzerland.

Dutch Marxist Sebald Justinus (S.J.) Rutgers moved to the United States in 1915 where he immediately became involved with the International Socialist Review. Rutgers helped to form the Socialist Propaganda League of America to fight for a revolutionary perspective in the Socialist Party. In the process, the S.P.L.A. corresponded with Lenin and others in the International grouped around the Zimmerwald Conference. Here, Rutgers informs U.S. comrades of the Swiss meeting, denounces the compromisers, and promotes the position of the Lenin’s minority Zimmerwald Left, reproducing their statement. He appeals to his U.S. comrades around the Review, one of the loudest internationalist voices in the world Socialist movement, to rally to the new International and support the coming Kienthal Conference.

‘The Battle Cry of a New International’ by S. J. Rutgers from International Socialist Review. Vol. 16. No. 11. May, 1916.

There is a dawn of hope; there is new life among the ruins of Europe; there is the actual beginning of a new International! There is only a beginning and it is concealed by the hatred of the old party leaders, but it is living and it is growing. It stands for the new facts on the old fundamentals. Its revolutionary spirit takes its force from the solid ground of economic facts in the never-resting class struggle.


The first meeting of French, German, English and comrades from other belligerent and neutral nations during the war, at Zimmerwald in Switzerland, was a promise, was the beginning of a new understanding. But the resolution adopted by the majority of this Zimmerwalder Conference proved to be a compromise, was confusing by its statement that the right of self-determination of peoples must be the indestructible foundation of national relations. And what was still worse, the accepted resolution did not indicate a definite method of fighting, did not come to a clear understanding that our only hope is in a series of mass actions on the industrial as well as on the political field.

In compromising with those who did not even recognize that a split in the old parties is inevitable and necessary, that a reorganization of the old International with the old leaders, who surrendered to the enemy when their resistance was needed most, is impossible, the Zimmerwalder Conference lost its practical influence. It was a first symbol, a hopeful effort, a historical event, if you like, but not a BANNER around which to gather the defeated and scattered troops to inspire enthusiasm for a new fight.

The results soon proved its failure. The minority group from Germany, as represented at Zimmerwald by Ledebour and Hoffman, to whose influence much of the compromising was due, made a declaration in the German Parliament, which showed better than discussions could do, the failure of the Zimmerwalder compromise. Altho they voted against the war credits, as promised in Zimmerwald, they declared at the same time, that in this war, because there were no rebellious soldiers in Germany, the German military forces gained a most favorable position, etc. This, of course, means, that French and Russian Socialists should have to support their governments; it means Nationalism instead of International Solidarity.

This illustrates the inadequacy of the majority resolution of Zimmerwald and it teaches us, for the hundredth time, the lesson that compromise is a bad policy for Socialists.

The Minority

There, however, was a minority at Zimmerwald who made their own resolution, which was voted down by the majority because it meant a split in the old parties, a new International, and a new revolutionary fighting tactic.

This minority kept together also after the Conference, publishing International pamphlets (International Flugblatter (I.F.), address: Fritz Flaxten, 23 Rotachstr. Zurich, Switzerland), and its policy is embodied in the minority resolution as presented to the Zimmerwalder Conference and officially approved by groups in most of the European countries (see below). There soon will meet another Conference in which there will be no compromising and in which no doubt a fighting resolution will be adopted: the resolution of the left wing of the Zimmerwalder Conference.

Gustav Klinger, and Zimmerwalders Hugo Eberlein, Vladimir Lenin and Friz Platten in the Presidium of the First Congress of the Comintern in 1919.

In each country, and we may expect also in the United States, there will be a group supporting this policy, fighting for it Internationally. And our INTERNATIONAL REVIEW, which always took the part of uncompromising class struggle and of revolutionary mass action, will no doubt be in the front line, will no doubt become the rallying point for those, who, not satisfied with theoretical discussions only, will prepare for a practical fight against the new form of Imperialistic Capitalism, together with those of our European comrades who remained International Socialists in the storms of an intensified class struggle.

The minority resolution of the so-called Left Wing of the Zimmerwald Conference has already been accepted and signed by the following groups: A delegate from the revolutionary Socialists in Germany, representing the group of “International Socialists of Germany”; a delegate from the revolutionary Socialists in Switzerland; the Central Committee of the Socialist party in Russia; the Executive Committee of the Socialist Democrats of Russian Poland and Lithuania; the Central Committee of the Social Democrats in Lettland; Ungdomsforbund der Schwedischen and Norwegian social-democrats.

The Social-Democratic minority party in Holland (S.D.P.) also accepted this program as a basis for co-operation at a second International Conference.

The Resolution reads as follows:

‘The world war, now ruining Europe, is an imperialistic war, waged for the political and economic exploitation of the world to get hold of markets, raw materials and spheres of investment, etc. It is a product of capitalist development, which, at the same time that the world management becomes international, leaves in existence the national capitalist states, with their conflicting interests.

‘When the bourgeoisie and the governments try to mask this character of the world war, by presenting it as a war, forced upon the nations for national independence, the [sic] means deceiving the proletariat, because this war is waged for the very purpose of subjugating foreign people and foreign countries.

‘As fraudulent is the legend about a defense of democracy in this war, for Imperialism means the unscrupulous supremacy of Big Capital and political reaction.

‘The overcoming of Imperialism is only possible by doing away with the antithesis, from which it originated, which means Socialist Organization of the Capitalist Society, for which objective conditions are ripe.

Lenin in 1916.

‘At the beginning of the war the majority of the labor leaders failed to apply this only possible tactic against imperialism. Overwhelmed by nationalism, carried away by opportunism, they surrendered the workers to imperialism the very moment of the outbreak of the war and abandoned the fundamentals of Socialism, thereby giving up the real fight for proletarian interests.

‘Social patriotism and social imperialism, as accepted in Germany, not only by the openly patriotic majority of the former Socialist leaders, but also by-the center of the party around Kautsky, in France by the majority, in England and Russia by a part of the leaders (Hyndman, the Fabians, the trade-unionists, Plekhanov, Rubanowics, the group Nasche Djelo), form a greater danger to the working class then the bourgeois apostles of Imperialism, because they mislead the class-conscious workers by abusing the Socialist flag. The uncompromising fight against Social Imperialism is fundamental to a revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat and the rebirth of the International.

‘It is the problem before the Socialist parties, as well as the Socialist minorities in the now Social imperialistic parties, to awake and to lead the mass of the workers in a revolutionary struggle against the capitalist governments, to conquer political power for the Socialist organization of society.

‘Without giving up the fight for every inch of ground under present Capitalism, for every reform that will strengthen the working class, without denouncing any means of organizing and propaganda, the social-democrats, on the contrary, will have to use all of the reforms in our minimum program to intensify the present war crisis, as well as every other social or political crisis of capitalism, to an attack on its foundations. When this struggle is fought with Socialism as its issue, the workers will become unaccessible for a policy of subjugating one people by another, as the result of continuing the domination of one nation by another, and the cry for new annexations will not tempt because of any national solidarity, which has now led the workers to the battle-field.

‘The beginning of this struggle forms the fight against the world-war, to end the general murder as soon as possible. This fight requires the voting against war credits, the giving up of any participation in capitalist governments, the criticism of the capitalist, anti-socialist character of the war in Parliament and in the legal, and if necessary, illegal press, the uncompromising fight against social-patriotism and the use of every action among the people, resulting from the war (misery, losses in the war, etc.) to organize street demonstrations opposed to the government. It requires the propaganda of International Solidarity in the trenches, the support of economic strikes and the endeavor to enlarge these, whenever conditions are favorable, into political, strikes. Civil war, not civil peace, is the issue.

‘Contrary to all illusions, as to the possibility of getting a permanent peace or a beginning of disarmament by whatever decree of diplomacy and governments, the revolutionary Social democrats must show the workers over and over again, that the social revolution alone can bring permanent peace as well as the liberation of the human race.’

Beau Séjour boarding house, site of the Zimmerwald conference.

American Comrades! This resolution breathes the fighting spirit of a new generation.

It means a fight against Imperialism and Patriotism, against the defense of capitalist Fatherlands; it means a fight against “socialistic” imperialism and “socialistic” patriotism as well. It means intensifying our economic action to a series of mass actions, street demonstrations and industrial strikes, as a means of disorganizing the capitalist state and strengthening the power of labor. It means the social revolution as a practical issue of the class struggle; civil war till the final victory.

This always has been the spirit of our INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST REVIEW. Maybe some of our comrades have temporarily lost somewhat of their self-confidence and fighting spirit. Those have been mistaken. There will be new life, new and bigger fighting, new methods in future. Don’t stay behind; be in the first ranks and others will follow. Conditions are ripe, where are the hands to reap the harvest?

The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v16n11-may-1916-ISR-gog-Princ-ocr.pdf

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