Two months before the February 1917 revolution, Lenin wrote some theses on war and peace, addressed to the International Socialist Committee and all Socialist Parties elected at the Zimmerwald Conference. The committee, which was dominated by those who shifted to a Kautskyist attitude, neither handled nor published these theses.
The Bolsheviks were the only illegal party of the II. International. The Bolsheviks, who called the chauvinist attitude that dominated the International as infamy, were regarded as crazy even in their lands. We understand how to approach the Bolsheviks who called for the “transformation of war into civil war” from Zinoviev’s transmission:
« Today, this slogan looks very natural. But it was not so in those days and. In the II. International, they regarded us like the plague. When we proclaimed that this war should be turned into a civil war against the bourgeoisie, the rumors came to our ear that we did not have much of a share of reason. When we applied to Robert Grimm, who was the most “leftist” of the Second International, to print a few copies of our call, he replied only with pity that he could not print documents that could be regarded as a sign of madness everywhere. And when we showed the courage to declare that the Second International went bankrupt and died, they began to mock us. The International had endless authority and around 25 million organized workers. No doubt that it was unable to prevent the chaos in Europe, but what can be done, Kautskyist said. This is a peace-era institution, is not a wartime institution, and class war should be postponed during the war. »
The only seriously taking Bolsheviks in Europe were their enemies. A German professor said that those who take this stance are a new trend in socialism and the international workers’ movement and that the bourgeoisie must be cautious. It is no coincidence, at the same time, in Russia, the Cadets regarded Liebknecht and Luxemburg as people with no sense of duty towards their country.
After all, these Bolsheviks’ attitudes, which were seen as madness, became reality with the revolution. However, the demolition of these positions led to an increase in peace-loving attitudes and to forget the experience of political working within the military. The Bolshevik attitude, which had become normal with the revolution, is still seen as madness today. It will be possible to spread this attitude, to convert the class’s need from madness to political attitude with a communist organization that transcends this party. This organization will be created in the light of these experiences.
These theses were first published in 1931. Under the ninth of these arguments, Lenin raised the issue of what the socialists’ attitude should be about peace; today we still need this old advice:
“9. A policy designed not to mislead the workers, but to open their eyes to reality, should consist in the following:
(a) Socialists in every country must now, when the question of peace is so directly posed, unfailingly and more vigorously than usual expose their own government and their own bourgeoisie. They must expose the secret agreements they have concluded, and are concluding, with their imperialist allies for the division of colonies, spheres of influence, joint financial undertakings in other countries, buying up of shares, monopoly arrangements, concessions, etc. ….
(b) In every country the Socialist must above all emphasise in all his propaganda the need to distrust not only every political phrase of his own government, but also every political phrase of his own social-chauvinists, who in reality serve that government.
(c) In every country the Socialists must above all explain to the masses the indisputable truth that a genuinely enduring and genuinely democratic peace (without annexations, etc.) can now be achieved only if it is concluded not by the present bourgeois governments, or by bourgeois governments in general, but by proletarian governments that have overthrown the rule of the bourgeoisie and are proceeding to expropriate it. ….
(d) In every country the socialist must explain to the masses the indisputable truth that, if the phrase “democratic peace” is to be taken seriously, sincerely and honestly, …. that means is to turn their weapons against their own government. ….
(e) Socialists must centre their activity on the struggle against reformism, which has always corrupted the revolutionary labour movement by injecting bourgeois ideas, and has now assumed a somewhat special form, namely: “reliance” on the reforms the bourgeoisie is supposed to carry out after the war!” (THESES FOR AN APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST COMMITTEE AND ALL SOCIALIST PARTIES, CW., c.23, p. 226-234).
“Dreams of peace, without propaganda of revolutionary action, express only a horror of war, but have nothing in common with socialism.” (BOURGEOIS PHILANTHROPISTS AND REVOLUTIONARY SOCIAL-DEMOCRACY, CW., c.21, p. 192)
“Socialists have always condemned war between nations as barbarous and brutal. But our attitude towards war is fundamentally different from that of the bourgeois pacifists (supporters and advocates of peace) and of the Anarchists. We differ froth the former in that we understand the inevitable connection between wars and the class struggle within the country; we understand that war cannot be abolished unless classes are abolished and Socialism is created; and we also differ in that we fully regard civil wars, i.e., wars waged by the oppressed class against the oppressing class, slaves against slave-owners, serfs against land-owners, and wage-workers against the bourgeoisie, as legitimate, progressive and necessary.” (Socialism and War)