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Lenin, Tasks of the Left Zimmerwaldists in the Swiss Social-Democratic Party

 Collected Works, Volume 23, pages 137-148. 

 November 1916

The Congress of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party at Zurich (November 4–5, 1916) definitely proved that the decision to join Zimmerwald and accept revolutionary mass struggle (resolution of the 1915 Aarau Congress) remains on paper, and that within the party there has been definitely formed a “Centre”, i.e., a trend similar to that of Kautsky-Haase and the Arbeitsgemeinschaft[7] in Germany, and of Longuet-Pressemane and Co. in France. This “Centre”, of which R. Grimm has become the head, combines “Left” declarations with “Right”, i.e., opportunist, tactics.

It is therefore the task of the Left Zimmerwaldists in the Swiss Social-Democratic Party immediately and effectively to consolidate, their forces in order systematically to influence the party so that the Aarau Congress decision shall not remain a dead letter. Consolidation of their forces is all the more urgent since both the Aarau and Zurich congresses have left no doubt whatever as to the revolutionary and internationalist sympathies of the Swiss proletariat. Resolutions of sympathy for Liebknecht are not enough; there must be serious acceptance of his slogan that the Social-Democratic parties of today need regeneration.[8]

The platform of the Left Zimmerwaldists in the Social-Democratic Party of Switzerland should be, approximately, as follows:


1. “Defence of the fatherland” on the part of Switzerland in the present imperialist war as well as in the new imperialist wars now in preparation is nothing but a bourgeois   deception of the people. For, actually, Switzerland’s participation in the present or similar wars would only be participation in a predatory and reactionary war on the side of [1] one of the imperialist coalitions; it would definitely not be a war for “freedom”, “democracy”, “in dependence”, etc.

2. The attitude of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party towards the bourgeois Swiss Government and towards all the Swiss bourgeois parties must be one of utter distrust. For that government (a) is closely bound up, economically and financially, with the bourgeoisie of the imperialist “Great” Powers and is completely dependent upon them; (b) has long ago turned towards political reaction all along the line in international and domestic affairs (political police, servility towards European reaction and European monarchies, etc.); (c) its whole policy over a period of many years (military reorganisation in 1907, etc., the Egli “case”, the de Loys “case”,[9] etc., etc.) has proved that it is increasingly becoming a pawn in the hands of the most reactionary Swiss military party and military clique.

3. In view of the above, it is the urgent task of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party to expose the true character of the government, which is cringing before the imperialist bourgeoisie and the militarists, expose its deception of the people by means of phrases about democracy, etc., show the very real possibility of this government (with the approval of the whole of the ruling bourgeoisie in Switzerland) bartering away the interests of the Swiss people to on or the other imperialist coalition.

4. Therefore, in the event of Switzerland’s involvement in the present war, it will be the duty of the Social-Democrats absolutely to repudiate “defence of the fatherland” and to expose the use of that slogan to deceive the people. In such a war the workers and peasants would lay down their lives not in their own interests, and not for democracy, but in the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The socialists of Switzerland, as of all other advanced countries, can and must accept military defence of the fatherland only when this fatherland has been reorganised   along socialist lines, i.e., defence of the proletarian socialist revolution against the bourgeoisie.

5. Neither in peace nor in war can the Social-Democratic Party and its deputies vote war credits under any circumstances, no matter what deceitful speeches about “defending neutrality”, etc., are made to justify such voting.

6. The proletariat’s answer to war must be propaganda and the preparation and carrying out of revolutionary mass actions for the overthrow of bourgeois rule, the conquest of political power and the achievement of socialist society, which alone will save mankind from wars. The determination to achieve it is maturing in the minds of the workers of all countries with unprecedented rapidity.

7. Revolutionary action must include demonstrations and mass strikes, but under no circumstances refusal of military service. On the contrary, not refusal to take up arms, but turning these arms against one’s own bourgeoisie is the only action that can correspond to the tasks of the proletariat and to the slogans of the best representatives of internationalism, for example, Karl Liebknecht.

8. The Social-Democratic workers must counter the slightest government action, either before entering or during the war, towards abolishing or curtailing political liberties by forming illegal organisations to conduct systematic, persistent propaganda, undaunted by any sacrifices, for war against war, and explain to the masses the real character of the war.

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