‘The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War’ (1914) by V.I. Lenin from The Communist. Vol. 13 No. 8. August, 1934.

These seven paragraphs were written by Lenin in the early weeks of World War One, presented as a theses and discussed at a meeting of exiled Bolsheviks in Berne, Switzerland, in September, 1914 were it was adopted and sent to Bolsheviks groupings inside Russia and out. Revised, it this theses would become the basis for the manifesto of the Bolsheviks Central Committee, ‘The War and Russian Social-Democracy,’ in November, 1914.

‘The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War’ (1914) by V.I. Lenin from The Communist. Vol. 13 No. 8. August, 1934.


1. The European and World War bears the sharp marks of a bourgeois-imperialist and dynastic war. A struggle for markets, for freedom to loot foreign countries, a tendency to put an end to the revolutionary movement of the proletariat and democracy within the separate countries, a tendency to fool, to disunite, to slaughter the proletariat of all countries by inflaming the wage slaves of one nation against the wage slaves of the other for the benefit of the bourgeoisie- this is the only real meaning and significance of the war.

2. The conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party, the strongest and the most influential party belonging to the Second International (1889-1914 ), which voted for the military appropriations and which repeated the bourgeois chauvinist phrases of the Prussian Junkers and the bourgeoisie, is a direct betrayal of Socialism. Under no circumstances, even assuming the absolute weakness of that party and the necessity of its submitting to the will of the bourgeois majority of the nation, can the conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party be justified. This party has in fact adopted a national-liberal policy.

3. The same condemnation is deserved by the conduct of the leaders of the Belgian and French Social-Democratic parties, who have betrayed Socialism by entering bourgeois cabinets.

4. The betrayal of Socialism by a majority of the leaders of the Second International (1889-1914) signifies the ideological and political collapse of that International. The fundamental reason for this collapse is the actual prevalence in it of petty-bourgeois opportunism, the bourgeois nature and the danger of which have long been pointed out by the best representatives of the revolutionary proletariat of all countries. The opportunists had long been preparing the collapse of the Second International by renouncing the Socialist revolution and substituting for it bourgeois reformism; by rejecting the class struggle, which at certain moments necessarily turns into civil war, and preaching instead the collaboration of classes; by preaching bourgeois chauvinism and defense of the fatherland, under the cloak of patriotism, and rejecting the elementary truth of Socialism, expressed long ago in The Communist Manifesto, that the workers have no fatherland; by confining themselves in the struggle against militarism to a sentimental philistine point of view instead of recognizing the necessity of a revolutionary war of the proletarians of all countries against the bourgeois of all countries; by making a fetish of the necessity of utilizing bourgeois parliamentarism and bourgeois legality, forgetting that in times of crisis illegal forms of organization and propaganda are imperative. One of the organs of international opportunism, the Sozialistische Monatshefte· (Socialist Monthly), which has long moved to the national-liberal position, is consistent when it celebrates its victory over European Socialism. The so-called center of German Social-Democracy and of other Social-Democratic parties has in reality faint-heartedly capitulated before the opportunists. It must be the task of the future International resolutely and irrevocably to free itself of this bourgeois trend in Socialism.

The European war. The Siege of Przemyśl. Russian patriotic poster showing the fall the Austro-Hungarian fort at Przemyśl and the surrender 110,000 in March 1915 after 133 days of siege. In June 1915, Przemyśl was recaptured by German-Austrian armies.

5. Of the bourgeois and chauvinist sophisms by which the bourgeois parties and the governments of the two chief rival nations of the continent, the German and the French, are fooling the masses most effectively, and which are being slavishly repeated by both the open and covert Socialist opportunists who are trailing at the tail end of the bourgeoisie, one must particularly note and brand the following. When the German bourgeois refer to the defense of the fatherland, to the struggle against tsarism, to the fight for the freedom of cultural and national development, they lie, because Prussian Junkerdom with Wilhelm II at its head, and the big bourgeoisie of Germany, have always pursued a policy of defending the tsarist monarchy and, whatever the outcome of the war, they will not fail to direct their efforts towards its support; they lie because, in reality, the Austrian bourgeoisie has undertaken a predatory campaign against Serbia, the German bourgeoisie oppresses Danes, Poles, and Frenchmen (in Alsace-Lorraine); it leads an aggressive war against Belgium and France for the sake of looting the richer and freer countries; it organized an offensive at a moment which seemed most favorable for utilizing its latest improvements in military technique and on the eve of the introduction in Russia of the so-called great military program. Similarly, when the French bourgeois refer to the defense of the fatherland, etc., they lie, because in reality they defend countries that are backward in capitalist technique and that develop more slowly, and because they hire for their billions the Black Hundred gangs of Russian tsarism for an aggressive war whose aim it is to loot Austrian and German lands. Neither of the two belligerent groups of nations is behind the other as far as cruelty and barbarism in war methods are concerned.

6. It is the task of the Social-Democracy of Russia in the first place and with particular emphasis to conduct a merciless and ruthless struggle against Great-Russian and tsarist-monarchist chauvinism, and against the sophisms advanced by the Russian liberals, Constitutional-Democrats, a section of the Narodniks and other bourgeois parties, for the defense of that chauvinism. From the point of view of the working class and the laboring masses of all the peoples of Russia, by far the lesser evil would be the defeat of the Tsar’s armies and the Tsar’s monarchy, which oppresses Poland, the Ukraine, and a number of other peoples of Russia, and which inflames national hatred in order to increase the pressure of Great-Russia over the other nationalities and in order to strengthen the reaction of the barbarous government of the Tsar’s monarchy.

7. The slogans of Social-Democracy must now be: First, an all embracing propaganda of the Socialist revolution, to be extended also to the army and the area of military activities; emphasis to be placed on the necessity of turning the weapons, not against the brother wage slaves of other countries, but against the reaction of the bourgeois governments and parties in each country; recognition of the urgent necessity of organizing illegal nuclei and groups in the armies of all nations to conduct such propaganda in all languages; a merciless struggle against the chauvinism and patriotism of the philistines and bourgeoisie of all countries without exception. Against the leaders of the present International who have betrayed Socialism; it is imperative to appeal to the revolutionary consciousness of the working masses who bear the brunt of the war and are in most cases hostile to chauvinism and opportunism. Secondly (as one of the immediate slogans), propaganda in favor of republics in Germany, Poland, Russia, and other countries and in favor of transforming all the separate states of Europe into united republican states of Europe. Thirdly and particularly, struggle against the tsarist monarchy and the Great-Russian, Pan-Slavist chauvinism, and advocacy of a revolution in Russia as well as of the liberation and self-determination of the nationalities oppressed by Russia, coupled with the immediate slogans of a democratic republic, the confiscation of the landowners’ lands and an eight-hour work-day.

There are a number of journals with this name in the history of the movement. This ‘Communist’ was the main theoretical journal of the Communist Party from 1927 until 1944. Its origins lie with the folding of The Liberator, Soviet Russia Pictorial, and Labor Herald together into Workers Monthly as the new unified Communist Party’s official cultural and discussion magazine in November, 1924. Workers Monthly became The Communist in March ,1927 and was also published monthly. The Communist contains the most thorough archive of the Communist Party’s positions and thinking during its run. The New Masses became the main cultural vehicle for the CP and the Communist, though it began with with more vibrancy and discussion, became increasingly an organ of Comintern and CP program. Over its run the tagline went from “A Theoretical Magazine for the Discussion of Revolutionary Problems” to “A Magazine of the Theory and Practice of Marxism-Leninism” to “A Marxist Magazine Devoted to Advancement of Democratic Thought and Action.” The aesthetic of the journal also changed dramatically over its years. Editors included Earl Browder, Alex Bittelman, Max Bedacht, and Bertram D. Wolfe.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/communist/v13n08-aug-1934-communist.pdf

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