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(The Attitude of the RSDLP Towards the War)
July-August 1915


“Kautskyism” .

Kautsky, the leading authority in the Second International, is a most typical and striking example of how a verbal recognition of Marxism has led in practice to its conversion into “Struvism” or into “Brentanoism”.61 Another example is Plekhanov. By means of patent sophistry, Marxism is stripped of its revolutionary living spirit; everything is recognised in Marxism except the revolutionary methods of struggle, the propaganda and preparation of those methods, and the education of the masses in this direction. Kautsky “reconciles” in an unprincipled way the fundamental idea of social-chauvinism, recognition of defence of the fatherland in the present war, with a diplomatic sham concession to the Lefts—his abstention from voting for war credits, his verbal claim to be in the opposition, etc. Kautsky, who in 1909 wrote a book on the approaching epoch of revolutions and on the connection between war and revolution, Kautsky, who in 1912 signed the Basle Manifesto on taking revolutionary advantage of the impending war, is outdoing himself in justifying and embellishing social-chauvinism and, like Plekhanov, joins the bourgeoisie in ridiculing any thought of revolutionary and all steps towards the immediate revolutionary struggle.

The working class cannot play its world-revolutionary role unless it wages a ruthless struggle against this backsliding, spinelessness, subservience to opportunism, and unparalleled vulgarisation of the theories of Marxism. Kautskyism is not fortuitous; it is the social product of the contradictions within the Second International, a blend of loyalty to Marxism in word, and subordination to opportunism in deed.

This fundamental falseness of “Kautskyism” manifests itself in different ways in different countries. In Holland, Roland-Holst, while rejecting the idea of defending the fatherland, defends unity with the opportunists’ party. In Russia, Trotsky, while rejecting this idea, also defends  unity with the opportunist and chauvinist Nasha Zarya group. In Rumania, Rakovsky, while declaring war on opportunism as being responsible for the collapse of the International, is at the same time ready to recognise the legitimacy of the idea of defending the fatherland. All this is a manifestation of the evil which the Dutch Marxists (Gorter and Pannekoek) have called “passive radicalism”, and which amounts to replacing revolutionary Marxism with eclecticism in theory, and servility to or impotence towards opportunism, in practice. . . .



The Present State of Affairs in the Ranks of the Russian Social-Democrats As we have already said, our January 1912 Conference has not been recognised by the liquidators, or by a number of groups abroad (those of Plekhanov, Alexinsky, Trotsky, and others), or by the so-called “national” (i.e., non-Great Russian) Social-Democrats. Among the numberless epithets hurled against us, “usurpers” and “splitters” have been most frequently repeated. We have replied by quoting precise and objectively verifiable figures showing that our Party has united four- fifths of the class-conscious workers in Russia. This is no small figure, considering the difficulties of underground activities in a period of counter-revolution.

If “unity” were possible in Russia on the basis of Social-Democratic tactics, without expelling the Nasha Zarya group, why have our numerous opponents not achieved it even among themselves? Three and a half years have elapsed since January 1912, and all this time our opponents, much as they have desired to do so, have failed to form a Social-Democratic party in opposition to us. This fact is our Party’s best defence.

The entire history of the Social-Democratic groups that are fighting against our Party has been a history of collapse and disintegration. In March 1912, all of them, without exception, “united” in reviling us. But already in August 1912, when the so-called August bloc was formed against us, disintegration set in among them. Some of the groups defected from them. They were unable to form   a party and a Central Committee; what they set up was only an Organising Committee “for the  purpose of restoring unity”. Actually, this OC proved an ineffective cover for the liquidationist group in Russia. Throughout the tremendous upswing of the working-class movement in Russia and the mass strikes of 1912-14, the only group in the entire August bloc to conduct work among the masses was the Nasha Zarya group, whose strength lay in its links with the liberals. Early in 1914, the Lettish Social-Democrats officially withdrew from the August bloc (the Polish Social-Democrats did not join it), while Trotsky, one of the leaders of the bloc, left it unofficially, again forming his own separate group. At the Brussels Conference of July 1914, at which the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau, Kautsky and Vandervelde participated, the so called Brussels bloc was formed against us, which the Letts did not join, and from which the Polish opposition Social- Democrats forthwith withdrew. On the outbreak of war, this bloc collapsed. Nasha Zarya, Plekhanov, Alexinsky and An, leader of the Caucasian Social-Democrats, became open social-chauvinists, who came out for the desirability of Germany’s defeat. The OC and the Bund defended the social- chauvinists and the principles of social-chauvinism. Although it voted against the war credits (in Russia, even the bourgeois democrats, the Trudoviks, voted against them), the Chkheidze Duma  group remained Nasha Zarya’s faithful ally. Plekhanov, Alexinsky and Co., our extreme social- chauvinists, were quite pleased with the Chkheidze group. In Paris, the newspaper Nashe Slovo (the former Golos) was launched, with the participation mainly of Martov and Trotsky, who wanted to combine a platonic defence of internationalism with an absolute demand for unity with Nasha Zarya, the OC or the Chkheidze group. After 250 issues, this newspaper was itself compelled to admit its disintegration: one section of the editorial board gravitated towards our Party, Martov remained faithful to the OC which publicly censured Nashe Slovo for its “anarchism” (just as the opportunists in Germany, David and Co., Internationale Korrespondenz62 and Legien and Co. have accused Comrade Liebknecht of anarchism); Trotsky announced his rupture with the CC, but wanted to stand with the Chkheidze group. Here are the programme and the tactics of the Chkheidze group, as formulated by one of its leaders. In No. 5, 1915, of Sovremenny Mir,63 journal of the Plekhanov and Alexinsky trend, Chkhenkeli wrote:

“To say that German Social-Democracy was in a position to prevent its country from going to war and  failed to do so would mean either secretly wishing that it should not only have breathed its last at the  barricades, but also have the fatherland breathe its last, or looking at nearby things through an anarchist’s telescope.”*

These few lines express the sum and substance of social-chauvinism: both the justification, in principle, of the idea of “defence of the fatherland” in the present war, and “mockery—with the permission of the military censors—of the preachment of and preparation for revolution. It is not at all a question of whether the German Social-Democrats were or were not in a position to prevent war,   or whether, in general, revolutionaries can guarantee the success of a revolution. The question is:  shall socialists behave like socialists or really breathe their last in the embrace of the imperialist bourgeoisie?

Our Party’s Tasks

Social-Democracy in Russia arose before the bourgeois-democratic revolution (1905) in our country, 
and gained strength during the revolution and counter-revolution. The backwardness of Russia explains the extraordinary multiplicity of trends and shades of petty-bourgeois opportunism in our country; whereas the influence of Marxism in Europe and the stability of the legally existing Social-Democratic parties before the war converted our exemplary liberals into near-admirers of “reasonable”, “European” (non-revolutionary), “legal” “Marxist” theory and Social-Democracy. The working class of Russia could not build up its party otherwise than in a resolute thirty-year struggle against all the varieties of opportunism. The experience of the world war, which has brought about the shameful collapse of European opportunism and has strengthened the alliance between our national- liberals and social-chauvinist liquidationism, has still further fortified our conviction that our Party must follow the same consistently revolutionary road.

V. I. Lenin, Collected Works,
Vol. 21, pp. 311-12, 335-38

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