|THEORY AND TACTICS OF THE
BOLSHEVIK PARTY ON THE QUESTION OF WAR, PEACE AND
The Bolsheviks were not mere pacifists who sighed for
peace and confined themselves to the propaganda of peace, as the
majority of the Left Social-Democrats did. The Bolsheviks
advocated an active revolutionary struggle for peace, to the
point of overthrowing the rule of the bellicose imperialist
bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks linked up the cause of peace with
the cause of the victory of the proletarian revolution, holding
that the surest way of ending the war and securing a just peace,
a peace without annexations and indemnities, was to overthrow
the rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie.
In opposition to the Menshevik and
Socialist-Revolutionary renunciation of revolution and their
treacherous slogan of preserving "civil peace" in time of war,
the Bolsheviks advanced the slogan of "converting the
imperialist war into a civil, war." This slogan meant that
the labouring people, including the armed workers and peasants
clad in soldiers' uniform, were to turn their weapons against
their own bourgeoisie and overthrow its rule if they wanted to
put an end to the war and achieve a just peace.
In opposition to the Menshevik and
Socialist-Revolutionary policy of defending the bourgeois
fatherland, the Bolsheviks advanced the policy of "the defeat of
one's own government in the imperialist war." This meant voting
against war credits, forming illegal revolutionary organizations
in the armed forces, supporting fraternization among the
soldiers at the front, organizing revolutionary actions of the
workers and peasants against the war, and turning these actions
into an uprising against one's own imperialist government.
The Bolsheviks maintained that the lesser evil for the
people would be the military defeat of the tsarist government in
the imperialist war, for this would facilitate the victory of
the people over tsardom and the success of the struggle of the
working class for emancipation from capitalist slavery and
imperialist wars. Lenin held that the policy of working for the
defeat of one's own imperialist government must be pursued not
only by the Russian revolutionaries, but by the revolutionary
parties of the working class in all the belligerent countries.
It was not to every kind of war that the Bolsheviks were
opposed. They were only opposed to wars of conquest, imperialist
wars. The Bolsheviks held that there are two kinds of war:
a) Just wars, wars that are not wars of conquest
but wars of liberation, waged to defend the people from foreign
attack and from attempt to enslave them, or to liberate the
people from capitalist slavery, or, lastly, to liberate colonies
and dependent countries from the yoke of imperialism; and
b) Unjust wars, wars of conquest, waged to conquer
and enslave foreign countries and foreign nations.
Wars of the first kind the Bolsheviks supported. As to
wars of the second kind, the Bolsheviks maintained that a
resolute struggle must be waged against them to the point of
revolution and the overthrow of one's own imperialist
Of great importance to the working class of the world was
Lenin's theoretical work during the war. In the spring of 1916
Lenin wrote a book entitled
Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.
In this book he showed that imperialism is the highest stage of
capitalism, a stage at which it has already become transformed
from "progressive" capitalism to parasitic capitalism, decaying
capitalism, and that imperialism is moribund capitalism. This,
of course, did not mean that capitalism would die away of
itself, without a revolution of the proletariat, that it would
just rot on the stalk. Lenin always taught that without a
revolution of the working class capitalism cannot be overthrown.
Therefore, while defining imperialism as moribund capitalism,
Lenin at the same time showed that "imperialism is the eve of
the social revolution of the proletariat."
Lenin showed that in the era of imperialism the
capitalist yoke be comes more and more oppressive, that under
imperialism the revolt of the proletariat against the
foundations of capitalism grows, and that the elements of a
revolutionary outbreak accumulate in capitalist countries. Lenin
showed that in the era of imperialism the revolutionary crisis
in the colonial and dependent countries becomes more acute, that
the elements of revolt against imperialism, the elements of a
war of liberation from imperialism accumulate.
Lenin showed that under imperialism the unevenness of
development and the contradictions of capitalism have grown
particularly acute, that the struggle for markets and fields for
the export of capital, the struggle for colonies, for sources of
raw material, makes periodical imperialist wars for the
redivision of the world inevitable.
Lenin showed that it is just this unevenness of
development of capitalism that gives rise to imperialist wars,
which undermine the strength of imperialism and make it possible
to break the front of imperialism at its weakest point.
From all this Lenin drew the conclusion that it was quite
possible for the proletariat to break the imperialist front in
one place or in several places, that the victory of Socialism
was possible first in several countries or even in one
country, taken singly, that the simultaneous victory of
Socialism in all countries was impossible owing to the
unevenness of development of capitalism, and that Socialism
would be victorious first in one country or in several
countries, while the others would remain bourgeois countries for
some time longer.
Here is the formulation of this brilliant deduction as
given by Lenin in two articles written during the imperialist
1) "Uneven economic and political development is an
absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of Socialism is
possible first in several or even in one capitalist country,
taken singly. The victorious proletariat of that country, having
expropriated the capitalists and organized its own Socialist
production, would stand up against the rest of the world,
the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed
classes of other countries. . . ." (From the article, "The
United States of Europe Slogan," written in August, 1915. --
Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. V, p. 141.)
2) "The development of capitalism proceeds extremely
unevenly in the various countries. It cannot be otherwise under
the commodity production system. From this it follows
irrefutably that Socialism cannot achieve victory simultaneously
in all countries. It will achieve victory first in one or
several countries, while the others will remain bourgeois or
pre-bourgeois for some time. This must not only create friction,
but a direct striving on the part of the bourgeoisie of other
countries to crush the victorious proletariat of the Socialist
country. In such cases a war on our part would be a legitimate
and just war. It would be a war for Socialism, for the
liberation of other nations from the bourgeoisie." (From the
article, "War Program of the
Proletarian Revolution," written in the autumn of 1916. --
Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XIX, p. 325.)
This was a new and complete theory of the
Socialist revolution, a theory affirming the possibility of the
victory of Socialism in separate countries, and indicating the
conditions of this victory and its prospects, a theory whose
fundamentals were outlined by Lenin as far back as 1905 in his
pamphlet, Two Tactics of
Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.
This theory fundamentally differed from the view current
among the Marxists in the period of pre-imperialist
capitalism, when they held that the victory of Socialism in one
separate country was impossible, and that it would take place
simultaneously in all the civilized countries. On the basis of
the facts concerning imperialist capitalism set forth in his
remarkable book, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of
Capitalism, Lenin displaced this view as obsolete and set
forth a new theory, from which it follows that the simultaneous
victory of Socialism in all countries is impossible,
while the victory of Socialism in one capitalist country, taken
singly, is possible.
The inestimable importance of Lenin's theory of Socialist
revolution lies not only in the fact that it has enriched
Marxism with a new theory and has advanced Marxism, but also in
the fact that it opens up a revolutionary perspective for the
proletarians of separate countries, that it unfetters their
initiative in the onslaught on their own, national bourgeoisie,
that it teaches them to take advantage of a war situation to
organize this onslaught, and that it strengthens their faith in
the victory of the proletarian revolution.
Such was the theoretical and tactical stand of the
Bolsheviks on the questions of war, peace and revolution.
It was on the basis of this stand that the Bolsheviks
carried on their practical work in Russia.
At the beginning of the war, in spite of severe
persecution by the police, the Bolshevik members of the Duma --
Badayev, Petrovsky, Muranov, Samoilov and Shagov -- visited a
number of organizations and addressed them on the policy of the
Bolsheviks towards the war and revolution. In November 1914 a
conference of the Bolshevik group in the State Duma was convened
to discuss policy towards the war. On the third day of the
conference all present were arrested. The court sentenced the
Bolshevik members of the State Duma to forfeiture of civil
rights and banishment to Eastern Siberia. The tsarist government
charged them with "high treason."
The picture of the activities of the Duma members
unfolded in court did credit to our Party. The Bolshevik
deputies conducted themselves manfully, transforming the tsarist
court into a platform from which they exposed the annexationist
policy of tsardom.
Quite different was the conduct of Kamenev, who was also
tried in this case. Owing to his cowardice, he abjured the
policy of the Bolshevik Party at the first contact with danger.
Kamenev declared in court that he did not agree with the
Bolsheviks on the question of the war, and to prove this he
requested that the Menshevik Jordansky be summoned as witness.
The Bolsheviks worked very effectively against the War
Industry Committees set up to serve the needs of war, and
against the attempts of the Mensheviks to bring the workers
under the influence of the imperialist bourgeoisie. It was of
vital interest to the bourgeoisie to make everybody believe that
the imperialist war was a people's war. During the war the
bourgeoisie managed to attain considerable influence in affairs
of state and set up a countrywide organization of its own known
as the Unions of Zemstvos and Towns. It was necessary for the
bourgeoisie to bring the workers, too, under its leadership and
influence. It conceived a way to do this, namely, by forming
"Workers' Groups" of the War Industry Committees. The Mensheviks
jumped at this idea. It was to the advantage of the bourgeoisie
to have on these War Industry Committees representatives of the
workers who would urge the working class masses to increase
productivity of labour in the factories producing shells, guns,
rifles, cartridges and other war material. "Everything for the
war, all for the war" -- was the slogan of the bourgeoisie.
Actually, this slogan meant "get as rich as you can on war
contracts and seizures of foreign territory." The Mensheviks
took an active part in this pseudo-patriotic scheme of the
bourgeoisie. They helped the capitalists by conducting an
intense campaign among the workers to get them to take part in
the elections of the "Workers' Groups" of the War Industry
Committees. The Bolsheviks were against this scheme. They
advocated a boycott of the War Industry Committees and were
successful in securing this boycott. But some of the workers,
headed by a prominent Menshevik, Gvozdev, and an
agent-provocateur, Abrosimov, did take part in the activities of
the War Industry Committees. When, however, the workers'
delegates met, in September 1915, for the final elections of the
"Workers' Groups" of the War Industry Committees, it turned out
that the majority of the delegates were opposed to participation
in them. A majority of the workers' delegates adopted a
trenchant resolution opposing participation in the War Industry
Committees and declared that the workers had made it their aim
to fight for peace and for the overthrow of tsardom.
The Bolsheviks also developed extensive activities in the
army and navy. They explained to the soldiers and sailors who
was to blame for the unparalleled horrors of the war and the
sufferings of the people; they explained that there was only one
way out for the people from the imperialist shambles, and that
was revolution. The Bolsheviks formed nuclei in the army and
navy, at the front and in the rear, and distributed leaflets
calling for a fight against the war.
In Kronstadt, the Bolsheviks formed a "Central Collective
of the Kronstadt Military Organization" which had close
connections with the Petrograd Committee of the Party. A
military organizatiOn of the Petrograd Party Committee was set
up for work among the garrison.
In August 1916, the chief of the Petrograd Okhrana
reported that "in the Kronstadt Collective, things are very well
organized, conspiratorially, and its members are all taciturn
and cautious people. This Collective also has representatives on
At the front, the Party agitated for fraternization
between the soldiers of the warring armies, emphasizing the fact
that the world bourgeoisie was the enemy, and that the war could
be ended only by converting the imperialist war into a civil war
and turning one's weapons against one's own bourgeoisie and its
government. Cases of refusal of army units to take the offensive
became more and more frequent. There were already such instances
in 1915, and even more in 1916.
Particularly extensive were the activities of the
Bolsheviks in the armies on the Northern Front, in the Baltic
provinces. At the beginning of 1917 General Ruzsky, Commander of
the Army on the Northern Front, informed Headquarters that the
Bolsheviks had developed intense revolutionary activities on
The war wrought a profound change in the life of the
peoples, in the life of the working class of the world. The fate
of states, the fate of nations, the fate of the Socialist
movement was at stake. The war was therefore a touchstone, a
test for all parties and trends calling themselves Socialist.
Would these parties and trends remain true to the cause of
Socialism, to the cause of internationalism, or would they
choose to betray the working class, to furl their banners and
lay them at the feet of their national bourgeoisie? -- that is
how the question stood at the time.
The war showed that the parties of the Second
International had not stood the test, that they had betrayed the
working class and had surrendered their banners to the
imperialist bourgeoisie of their own countries.
And these parties, which had cultivated opportunism in
their midst, and which had been brought up to make concessions
to the opportunists, to the nationalists, could not have acted
The war showed that the Bolshevik Party was the only
party which had passed the test with flying colours and had
remained consistently faithful to the cause of Socialism, the
cause of proletarian internationalism.
And that was to be expected: only a party of a new type,
only a party fostered in the spirit of uncompromising struggle
against opportunism, only a party that was free from opportunism
and nationalism, only such a party could stand the great test
and remain faithful to the cause of the working class, to the
cause of Socialism and internationalism.
And the Bolshevik Party was such a party.