MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)

C H A P T E R S I X
THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY IN THE PERIOD OF THE IMPERIALIST WAR. THE SECOND REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA (1914-MARCH 1917)
1. OUTBREAK AND CAUSES OF THE IMPERIALIST WAR

2. PARTIES OF THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL SIDE WITH THEIR IMPERIALIST GOVERNMENTS. DISINTEGRATION OF THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL INTO SEPARATE SOCIAL-CHAUVINIST PARTIES

3. THEORY AND TACTICS OF THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY ON THE QUESTION OF WAR, PEACE AND REVOLUTION

4. DEFEAT OF THE TSARIST ARMY. ECONOMIC DISRUPTION. CRISIS OF TSARDOM

5.THE FEBRUARY REVOLUTION. FALL OF TSARDOM. FORMATION OF SOVIETS OF WORKERS' AND SOLDIERS' DEPUTIES. FORMATION OF THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT. DUAL POWER

 
1. OUTBREAK AND CAUSES OF THE IMPERIALIST WAR

    On July 14 (27, New Style), 1914, the tsarist government proclaimed a general mobilization. On July 19 (August 1, New Style) Germany declared war on Russia.

    Russia entered the war.

    Long before the actual outbreak of the war the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, had foreseen that it was inevitable. At international Socialist congresses Lenin had put forward proposals the purpose of which was to determine a revolutionary line of conduct for the Socialists in the event of war.

    Lenin had pointed out that war is an inevitable concomitant of capitalism. Plunder of foreign territory, seizure and spoliation of colonies and the capture of new markets had many times already served as causes of wars of conquest waged by capitalist states. For capitalist countries war is just as natural and legitimate a condition of things as the exploitation of the working class.

    Wars became inevitable particularly when, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, capitalism definitely entered the highest and last stage of its development -- imperialism. Under imperialism the powerful capitalist associations (monopolies) and the banks acquired a dominant position in the life of the capitalist states. Finance capital became master in the capitalist states. Finance capital demanded new markets, the seizure of new colonies, new fields for the export of capital, new sources of raw material.

    But by the end of the nineteenth century the whole territory of the globe had already been divided up among the capitalist states. Yet in the era of imperialism the development of capitalism proceeds extremely unevenly and by leaps: some countries, which previously held a foremost position, now develop their industry at a relatively slow rate, while others, which were formerly backward, overtake and outstrip them by rapid leaps. The relative economic and military strength of the imperialist states was undergoing a change. There arose a striving for a redivision of the world, and the struggle for this redivision made imperialist war inevitable. The war of 1914 was a war for the redivision of the world and of spheres of influence. All the imperialist states had long been preparing for it. The imperialists of all countries were responsible for the war.

    But in particular, preparations for this war were made by Germany and Austria, on the one hand, and by France and Great Britain, as well as by Russia, which was dependent on the latter two, on the other. The Triple Entente, an alliance of Great Britain, France and Russia, was formed in 1907.

    Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy formed another imperialist alliance. But on the outbreak of the war of 1914 Italy left this alliance and later joined the Entente. Germany and Austria-Hungary were supported by Bulgaria and Turkey.

    Germany prepared for the imperialist war with the design of taking away colonies from Great Britain and France, and the Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic Provinces from Russia. By building the Baghdad railway, Germany created a menace to Britain's domination in the Near East. Great Britain feared the growth of Germany's naval armaments.

    Tsarist Russia strove for the partition of Turkey and dreamed of seizing Constantinople and the straits leading from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean (the Dardanelles). The plans of the tsarist government also included the seizure of Galicia, a part of Austria-Hungary.

    Great Britain strove by means of war to smash its dangerous competitor -- Germany -- whose goods before the war were steadily driving British goods out of the world markets. In addition, Great Britain intended to seize Mesopotamia and Palestine from Turkey and to secure a firm foothold in Egypt.

    The French capitalists strove to take away from Germany the Saar Basin and Alsace-Lorraine, two rich coal and iron regions, the latter of which Germany had seized from France in the war of 1870-71.

    Thus the imperialist war was brought about by profound antagonisms between two groups of capitalist states.

    This rapacious war for the redivision of the world affected the interests of all the imperialist countries, with the result that Japan, the United States and a number of other countries were subsequently drawn into it.

    The war became a world war.

    The bourgeoisie kept the preparations for imperialist war a profound secret from their people. When the war broke out each imperialist government endeavoured to prove that it had not attacked its neighbours, but had been attacked by them. The bourgeoisie deceived the people, concealing the true aims of the war and its imperialist, annexationist character. Each imperialist government declared that it was waging war in defence of its country.

    The opportunists of the Second International helped the bourgeoisie to deceive the people. The Social-Democrats of the Second International vilely betrayed the cause of Socialism, the cause of the international solidarity of the proletariat. Far from opposing the war, they assisted the bourgeoisie in inciting the workers and peasants of the belligerent countries against each other on the plea of defending the fatherland.

    That Russia entered the imperialist war on the side of the Entente, on the side of France and Great Britain, was not accidental. It should be borne in mind that before 1914 the most important branches of Russian industry were in the hands of foreign capitalists, chiefly those of France, Great Britain and Belgium, that is, the Entente countries. The most important of Russia's metal works were in the hands of French capitalists. In all, about three-quarters (72 per cent) of the metal industry depended on foreign capital. The same was true of the coal industry of the Donetz Basin. Oilfields owned by British and French capital accounted for about half the oil output of the country. A considerable part of the profits of Russian industry flowed into foreign banks, chiefly British and French. All these circumstances, in addition to the thousands of millions borrowed by the tsar from France and Britain in loans, chained tsardom to British and French imperialism and converted Russia into a tributary, a semi-colony of these countries.

    The Russian bourgeoisie went to war with the purpose of improving its position: to seize new markets, to make huge profits on war contracts, and at the same time to crush the revolutionary movement by taking advantage of the war situation.

    Tsarist Russia was not ready for war. Russian industry lagged far behind that of other capitalist countries. It consisted predominantly of out-of-date mills and factories with worn-out machinery. Owing to the existence of land ownership based on semi-serfdom, and the vast numbers of impoverished and ruined peasants, her agriculture could not provide a solid economic base for a prolonged war.

    The chief mainstay of the tsar was the feudal landlords. The Black-Hundred big landlords, in alliance with the big capitalists, domineered the country and the State Duma. They wholly supported the home and foreign policy of the tsarist government. The Russian imperialist bourgeoisie placed its hopes in the tsarist autocracy as a mailed fist that could ensure the seizure of new markets and new territories, on the one hand, and crush the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants, on the other.

    The party of the liberal bourgeoisie -- the Constitutional-Democratic Party -- made a show of opposition, but supported the foreign policy of the tsarist government unreservedly.

    From the very outbreak of the war, the petty-bourgeois parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, using the flag of Socialism as a screen, helped the bourgeoisie to deceive the people by concealing the imperialist, predatory character of the war. They preached the necessity of defending, of protecting the bourgeois "fatherland" from the "Prussian barbarians"; they supported a policy of "civil peace," and thus helped the government of the Russian tsar to wage war, just as the German Social-Democrats helped the government of the German kaiser to wage war on the "Russian barbarians."

    Only the Bolshevik Party remained faithful to the great cause of revolutionary internationalism and firmly adhered to the Marxist position of a resolute struggle against the tsarist autocracy, against the landlords and capitalists, against the imperialist war. From the very outbreak of the war the Bolshevik Party maintained that it had been started, not for the defence of the country, but for the seizure of foreign territory, for the spoliation of foreign nations in the interests of the landlords and capitalists, and that the workers must wage a determined war on this war.

    The working class supported the Bolshevik Party.

    True, the bourgeois jingoism displayed in the early days of the war by the intelligentsia and the kulak sections of the peasantry also infected a certain section of the workers. But these were chiefly members of the ruffian "League of the Russian People" and some workers who were under the influence of the SociaIist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. They naturally did not, and could not, reflect the sentiments of the working class. It was these elements who took part in the jingo demonstrations of the bourgeoisie engineered by the tsarist government in the early days of the war.