Lenin on World War I (1914)

Lenin on World War I – excerpts from two articles published in European newspapers by the Bolshevik leader, who was in exile at the outbreak of the war:

“The slogans of social democracy at this time must be:

First, all-embracing propaganda extending to the army and to┬áthe theatre of war, propagating the socialist revolution, and the necessity of using weapons not against one’s own brothers, the hired slaves of other countries, but against the reactionary and bourgeois governments and parties of all nations;

The absolute necessity of organising illegal cells and groups in the armies of all nations for carrying on this propaganda in all languages;

A ruthless struggle against the chauvinism and “patriotism” of the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie of all countries without exception;

An appeal to the revolutionary consciousness of the toiling masses, who bear the full burden of the war and who in most cases are hostile to opportunism and chauvinism, against the leaders of the present International, who have betrayed socialism.

Second, propaganda calling for the immediate establishment of republics in Germany, Poland, Russia, and so forth, and for the organisation of the separate European states into a republican United States of Europe.

Third, a struggle against the tsarist monarchy and Great Russian pan-Slav chauvinism; agitation for a revolution in Russia and for the liberation and self-determination of all peoples oppressed by Russia, with emphasis on the immediate aims-a democratic republic, confiscation of estate lands, and an eight-hour working day.”

(From “The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War”, September 1914)

“The German bourgeoisie heads one group of belligerent nations. It is deluding the working class and the labouring masses by asserting that it is waging war in defence of the fatherland, freedom, and civilisation, for the liberation of the peoples oppressed by tsardom, for the destruction of reactionary tsardom… In reality, whatever the outcome of the war may be, this bourgeoisie will, together with the Junkers, exert every effort to support the tsarist monarchy against a revolution in Russia.

The other group of belligerent nations is headed by the British and French bourgeoisie, which is deluding the working class and the labouring masses by asserting that it is waging war for the defence of their native lands, freedom, and civilisation, against the militarism and despotism of Germany. But as a matter of fact, this bourgeoisie has long been using its billions to hire the armies of the Russian Tsardom, the most reactionary and barbarous monarchy in Europe, and to prepare them for an attack on Germany.

In reality, the object of the struggle of the British and French bourgeoisie is to seize the German colonies and to ruin a competing nation which has displayed a more rapid rate of economic development. And, in pursuit of this noble aim, the “advanced” democratic nations are helping the savage tsarist regime to strangle Poland, Ukraine, and so on, and to throttle revolution in Russia more thoroughly.

For us, the Russian social democrats, there can be no doubt that from the standpoint of the working class and of the labouring masses of all the nations of Russia, the lesser evil would be the defeat of the tsarist monarchy, the most reactionary and barbarous of governments, which is oppressing the greatest number of nations and the largest mass of the population of Europe and Asia.

The immediate political slogan of the social democrats of Europe must be the formation of a republican United States of Europe. But in contrast with the bourgeoisie, which is ready to “promise” anything in order to draw the proletariat into the general current of chauvinism, the social democrats will reveal that this slogan is utterly false and senseless without the revolutionary overthrow of the German, Austrian, and Russian monarchies. The war has placed the slogan of socialist revolution on the agenda of all the advanced countries… The only correct proletarian slogan is the transformation of the present imperialist war into a civil war.”

(From “The War and Russian Social Democracy”, November 1914)