Speech at an International Meeting in Berne

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V. I. Lenin

FEBRUARY 8, 1916

Berner Tagwacht No. 33,
February 9, 1916
Published in 1915
First published in Russian in 1929
in the second and third editions
of Lenin's Collected Works, Vol, XIX

Published according to
the text in Berner Tagwacht
Translated from the German

From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964

Vol. 22, pp. 123-26.

Translated by Yuri Sdobnikov
Edited by George Hanna

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, djr@marx2mao.org (May 2000)

page 123


  FEBRUARY 8, 1916


    Comrades! The European war has been raging for more than eighteen months. With every passing day, and month, it becomes clearer and clearer to the mass of the workers that the Zimmerwald Manifesto[31] expressed the truth when it declared that talk about "defence of the fatherland" and suchlike phrases are nothing but a capitalist fraud. It is becoming more evident every day that this is a war between capitalists, between big robbers, who are quarrelling over who is to get the largest slice, who is to plunder the greatest number of countries, and to suppress and enslave the greatest number of nations.

    It may sound incredible, especially to Swiss comrades, but it is true, nevertheless, that in Russia, too, it is not only murderous tsarism, or the capitalists, but also a section of the so-called, or former, socialists who are saying that Russia is fighting a "defensive war", that she is only fighting against the German invasion. But the whole world knows that for decades tsarism has been oppressing more than a hundred million people belonging to other nationalities in Russia, and that for decades Russia has been pursuing a predatory policy towards China, Persia, Armenia and Galicia. Neither Russia, nor Germany, nor any other Great Power for that matter has any right to claim that it is waging a "defensive war "; all the Great Powers are waging a capitalist imperialist war, a predatory war, a war for the oppression of small and foreign nations, a war for the profits of the capitalists, who have been converting proletarian blood and the horrible sufferings of the masses into the pure gold of their immense fortunes.

page 124

    Four years ago, in November 1912, when it had become quite clear that war was in the offing, representatives of the socialist parties of the world met at the International Socialist Congress in Basle. Even at that time there was no room for doubt that the impending war would be a war between the Great Powers, between these great plunderers and that the responsibility would fall upon the governments and the capitalist class of all the Great Powers. This truth was openly stated in the Basle Manifesto, which was adopted unanimously by the socialist parties of the world. The Basle Manifesto says nothing at all about a "defensive war" or "defence of the fatherland ". It castigates the governments and the bourgeoisie of all the Great Powers, without exception. It says openly that war would be the greatest of crimes, that the workers consider it a crime to shoot at each other, and that the horrors of war and the indignation these would rouse among the workers would inevitably lead to a proletarian revolution.

    When the war actually broke out it became evident that its character had been correctly defined at Basle. But the socialist and labour organisations were not unanimous in carrying out the Basle decisions; they split. We find that the socialist and labour organisations are now split into two big camps in all countries of the world. The smaller section, the leaders, functionaries and officials, have betrayed socialism and have sided with their governments. The other section, to which the mass of class-conscious workers belong, continues to gather its forces and to fight against the war and for the proletarian revolution.

    The views of this latter section were expressed in the Zimmerwald Manifesto, to mention one document.

    In Russia, from the very beginning of the war, the workers' deputies in the Duma waged a determined revolutionary struggle against the war and the tsarist monarchy. Five workers' deputies -- Petrovsky, Badayev Muranov, Shagov and Samoilov -- distributed revolutionary leaflets against the war and carried on persistent revolutionary agitation. The tsarist government ordered the arrest of these five deputies; they were tried and sentenced to exile in Siberia for life. The leaders of the working class of Russia have languished in Siberia for months, but their cause has not been

page 125

defeated; their work is being continued along the same lines by the class-conscious workers of all Russia.

    Comrades! You have heard speakers from various countries who have told you about the workers' revolutionary struggle against the war. I merely want to add another example, that of the United States of America, the biggest and richest country. Its capitalists are now making enormous profits out of the Europeah war. And they are also campaigning for war. They are saying that America, too, must prepare to enter the war, and that hundreds of millions of the people's dollars must be siphoned off into new armaments, into armaments without end. A section of the socialists in America have also responded to this false, criminal call. Let me read a statement by Comrade Eugene Debs, a most popular leader of the American socialists, and the presidential candidate of the American Socialist Party. <"p125">

    In the September 11, 1915, issue of the American weekly, Appeal to Reason,[32] he says: "I am not a capitalist soldier ; I am a proletarian revolutionist. I do not belong to the regular army of the plutocracy, but to the irregular army of the people. I refuse to obey any command to fight from the ruling class. . . . I am opposed to every war but one ; I am for that war with heart and soul, and that is the world-wide war of the social revolution. In that war I am prepared to fight in any way the ruling class may make necessary. . . ."

    This is what Eugene Debs, the American Bebel, the beloved leader of the American workers, is telling them.

    This goes to show once again, comrades, that the rallying of the working class forces is truly under way in all countries of the world. War inflicts horrible sufferings on the people, but we must not, and we have no reason at all, to despair of the future.

    The millions of victims who will fall in the war, and as a consequence of the war, will not have died in vain. The millions who are starving, the millions who are sacrificing their lives in the trenches, are not only suffering, they are also gathering strength; they are pondering over the real causes of the war; tbey are becoming more determined and are acquiring a clearer revolutionary understanding. In all countries of the world there is growing discontent among the masses and greater ferment; there are strikes, demonstrations

page 126

and protests against the war. This is an earnest of the proletarian revolution against capitalism that is bound to follow the European war.

page 367



  <"en30">[30] Thius speech was delivered at an international rally during the enlarged meeting of the I.S.C. in Berne.    [p. 123]

  <"en31">[31] Adopted by the Zimmerwald Conference of internationalists in September 1915 (see present edition, "First Step", Vol. 21).    [p. 123]

  <"en32">[32] The newspaper of the American socialists founded in Girard, Kansas, in 1895. While not officially connected with the American Socialist Party, the newspaper spread socialist ideas and was very popular among the workers.    [p. 125]