Spartacist English edition No. 64
From the Archives of Marxism
Bolshevik Policy in World War I
Pacifism or Marxism (The Misadventures of a Slogan)
by Gregory Zinoviev, 23 August 1915
One hundred years ago Europe was engulfed in World War I, a bloody interimperialist conflagration that saw the slaughter of more than 16 million people. The betrayal by the dominant parties of the Second International, who supported the war efforts of their “own” bourgeoisies, ultimately led to a decisive split between opportunists and revolutionaries within the international workers movement, and paved the way for the first successful proletarian seizure of power, the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, and to the formation in 1919 of the Third (Communist) International.
Spartacist is pleased to present to our readers the first English translation of an important article by Gregory Zinoviev on the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary internationalist opposition to the war. Written in August 1915, Zinoviev’s “Pacifism or Marxism (The Misadventures of a Slogan)” was one of several major works written in close collaboration with V.I. Lenin during the first two and a half years of war, when both were in exile in Switzerland. Lenin had a division of labor with Zinoviev, then his most senior collaborator, both in writing propaganda and in organizing Bolshevik interventions into the socialist antiwar conferences at Zimmerwald and Kienthal in 1915 and 1916. Zinoviev’s article was written on the eve of the Zimmerwald conference and was first published in the Bolshevik paper Sotsial-Demokrat on 23 August 1915. That month, Lenin and Zinoviev also finished their famous joint work, Socialism and War.
As Zinoviev explains, the core of the Bolsheviks’ perspective was the need to turn the imperialist war into a civil war pitting the proletariat against the capitalists. The 4 August 1914 vote in the Reichstag (parliament) by the German Social Democrats (SPD) to fund the war effort of their own ruling class was replicated by “socialist” leaders in almost all the other combatant countries, Serbia and Russia (and later Bulgaria) being the most notable exceptions. The Bolsheviks fought to break authentic Marxists away from these social-chauvinists and regroup the Marxists in a new, revolutionary Third International.
Countless volumes by bourgeois historians have been published over the past century purporting to explain how the First World War was an accident—the result of age-old Balkan intrigues and diplomatic blunders and misunderstandings by imperialist politicians. Marxists reject such philistine claptrap, recognizing that the world war was the inevitable outcome of the emergence of imperialism, the final stage of capitalism in its decay. This was marked by the concentration of bank and industrial capital—merged as finance capital—in monopolist combines. As Lenin briefly summarized it, “Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed” (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism ).
World War I showed conclusively that the drive to war is inherent in imperialism, with military force used to “settle” the inevitable economic rivalries. As Lenin and Zinoviev demonstrated in their writings, the superprofits derived from colonial exploitation made it possible for the imperialist bourgeoisies to bribe the top layers of the working class, i.e., the labor aristocracy and labor bureaucracy, whose loyalty to their capitalist masters was amply proved from the outset of the war. Thus the struggle for socialist revolution—the only alternative to deepening capitalist barbarism—required first and foremost a political struggle to expose and isolate the social-chauvinist lackeys of imperialism, as well as their social-pacifist allies.
Zinoviev’s wartime articles, others of which analyzed in depth the reasons for the social-patriotic decay of the SPD, were an essential part of the Bolsheviks’ propaganda arsenal. Reading only Lenin’s writings of this period, powerful as they are, provides an incomplete picture of the Bolsheviks’ fight. That is why the key war articles of both Lenin and Zinoviev, including the one below, were compiled in a volume titled Against the Stream, first published in Russian in 1918 by the Petrograd Soviet and then produced in a German edition by the Communist International in 1921. In 1927, Victor Serge and Maurice Parijanine produced a French edition. Most of Zinoviev’s articles in this authoritative volume of Bolshevik propaganda have never appeared in English.
The present article shows how social-pacifist reformists such as French Socialist leader Jean Jaurès, known as the tribune of France, who was assassinated by a pro-war nationalist on the eve of the war, in fact served as props for the bourgeois order. But it is particularly valuable for its polemics against the centrist elements who called for “peace,” and were seen by Lenin as the main obstacle to revolutionary clarity. These centrists ranged from SPD leaders Karl Kautsky and Hugo Haase to the British Independent Labour Party and many Russian Mensheviks.
Zinoviev pays particular attention to Nashe Slovo (Our Word), a Paris-based exile journal coedited by Leon Trotsky and Menshevik leader Julius Martov. While seeking to rally opposition to the war, the “non-factional” Nashe Slovo regularly polemicized against the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary perspective. The Mensheviks called for “Neither victory nor defeat” and “Peace without annexations,” while Trotsky criticized the Bolsheviks for refusing to raise the slogan of a “struggle for peace.” The differences over slogans were linked to organizational perspectives; Lenin and Zinoviev attacked Trotsky for giving a left cover to social-pacifist forces and refusing to call for a break with the opportunists.
As Trotsky later acknowledged, the core criticisms raised by Sotsial-Demokrat were “undoubtedly correct and helped the left-wing of the editorial board to oust Martov, in this way giving the newspaper, after the Zimmerwald Conference, a more defined and irreconcilable character” (quoted in Ian D. Thatcher, Leon Trotsky and World War One [Basingstoke, England: Palgrave, 2000]). When revolution broke out in Russia in early 1917, Trotsky broke decisively with social-pacifism and conciliation of the Mensheviks and soon became a central leader of the Bolshevik Party.
Our translation of Zinoviev’s article is taken from the 1927 French edition, published under the title Contre le Courant. It has been checked against the earlier Russian and German publications, with minor changes made to correspond to the Russian. Bracketed material has been inserted by Spartacist. Ellipses in the text are Zinoviev’s own.
For revolutionary Marxists, the peace “slogan” is a much more important question than is sometimes believed. In reality, the dispute comes down to combating bourgeois influence in the workers movement, within the framework of socialism.
The “slogan” of peace is defended in socialist literature from two different points of view. Some, while not accepting pacifism on principle, choose to view this slogan as most appropriate for the present, merely as a code word that is supposed to immediately arouse the masses, as a call that would only play a role in the final months of the war. Others see something more in this slogan: they turn it into a whole system of foreign policy for socialism, to be maintained after the war, in other words, the policy of so-called socialist pacifism.
In fact, the advocates of the former bolster the latter. And this cannot be otherwise.
The latter tendency is the more serious of the two because it has a history, its own theory, and an intellectual foundation. The philosophy of this second tendency is the following: up until now, socialism has not been sufficiently pacifist, it has not sufficiently preached the idea of peace, it has not focused its efforts toward the goal of leading the entire world proletariat to adopt pacifism as the International’s general system of foreign policy. Hence the impotence of the socialist proletariat in the current war, hence the weakness of the International in the face of the erupting horror of the war.
This point of view is strongly emphasized in Max Adler’s recent pamphlet: Prinzip oder Romantik (Principle or Romanticism, Nuremberg, 1915). Max Adler (in words, of course) is an opponent of purely bourgeois pacifism, which he most forcefully rejects. He’s not even the sort of pacifist we find in England in the Independent Labour Party. He is a “Center Marxist,” a Kautskyist. And here is the kind of platform he puts forward under the guise of lessons to be drawn from the 1914-1915 war:
“The foreign policy of socialism can only be pacifist, not in the sense of a bourgeois movement for peace...or in the sense that socialists have hitherto recognized the idea of peace...in other words, as an idea that until now had been considered a secondary goal in the proletariat’s struggle for emancipation... Now is the time to raise the following warning: Unless the Social Democracy makes the idea of peace the central point of its program of foreign and domestic policy, all its internationalism must and will remain utopian… After the war, socialism will either become organized international pacifism or it will no longer exist.”
— pamphlet cited above, pages 61-62
(emphasis in original)
That’s certainly a whole program. But it is not the program of Marxism; it is the program of petty-bourgeois opportunism. This “international pacifism” is but one step away from international social-chauvinism. The logic of this development is very simple: we are pacifists, the idea of peace is the central point of our program; but until pacifism is more deeply rooted among the masses, as long as the idea of peace is still weak, what else can one do but defend one’s own fatherland?! Of course, this can only be a temporary decision, made with “a heavy heart.” Of course after the war, we will have to adopt the idea of peace as the “central point” in our propaganda. But for the time being, we must defend the fatherland. There is no other way out.
And for socialists who cannot conceive of any other perspective—a revolutionary perspective of turning imperialist wars into a civil war—there really isn’t any other way out. From pacifism to social-chauvinism, and from social-chauvinism to new pacifist sermons—this is the vicious circle in which the ideas of opportunists and “Center” Marxists are hopelessly trapped.
“Die Friedensidee zum Mittelpunkt”—“The idea of peace at the heart of our slogans”! Now they say that—after the first pan-European imperialist war has broken out! This is what you have learned from events!
“Nicht Friedensidee, sondern Bürgerkriegsidee”—not the idea of peace, but the idea of civil war—this is what we are tempted to shout at these great utopians who promise such a meager utopia. Not the idea of peace, but the idea of civil war, citizen Adler! This will be the central point of our program.
The problem is not that we failed to sufficiently preach the idea of peace before the war; it is that we did not preach the idea of class struggle, of civil war, enough or seriously enough. Because in wartime, the recognition of class struggle without a recognition of civil war is empty verbiage; it is hypocrisy; it is deceiving the workers.
German Social Democracy first sought ways to fight against imperialist wars in 1900 at the Mainz Social Democratic conference, when Kiautschou [Jiaozhou Bay in China, first seized by Germany in 1897] was occupied. Rosa Luxemburg put it powerfully:
“In times of peace, we thunder daily against the government’s foreign policy; we curse militarism in times of peace. But as soon as there’s a real war, we forget to draw the practical conclusions from it and to show that our years-long agitation has not borne any fruit.”
— Minutes, 165
The problem is not that in times of peace we did not preach peace very much. It is that when war came we found ourselves prisoners of the opportunists, of those who want peace with the bourgeoisie in times of peace and especially in times of war. The problem is that faced with an enemy as powerful as international imperialism, we have been unable to protect the proletariat from bourgeois renegades who emerged from our own ranks; we have been unable to defend it from the opportunism that is now degenerating into social-chauvinism.
You say that socialism will become organized international pacifism or it will totally cease to exist? We reply: you have to understand that by preaching pacifism you are not taking a single step forward; what you are telling us amounts to six of one and a half-dozen of the other; you are moving from social-pacifism to social-chauvinism and from social-chauvinism to social-pacifism. We say to you: either socialism will become organized international civil war or it will not exist...
Max Adler is not alone. We chose him precisely because he is a typical spokesman for an entire current of political thought. Hasn’t the entire Jaurèsist movement, and Jaurès himself, defended this very same social-pacifism within the International? And can anyone doubt that the tribune of France would today be a member of the cabinet of ministers and would be advocating social-chauvinism, along with the entire French party, had he not been sent to his grave by an assassin’s bullet? And, while remaining true to himself, would Jaurès have envisioned any other perspective for the future than “organized international pacifism”?
This is the problem of the Second International; herein lies the reason for its impotence, which has always existed at its core—and prevailed!—a tendency which inscribed on its banner not militant socialism, not the tactic of civil war, but international pacifism, which inevitably leads to the tactic of civil peace.
Today we all applaud the Independent Labour Party because, far from prostrating itself at the feet of the English government, this party had sufficient honesty and courage to refuse to enlist in the imperialist camp, and not to sell out to social-chauvinism. But we must not have any illusions. The Independent Labour Party has been, is, and will be a supporter not of militant Marxism, but of “organized international pacifism.” The Independent Labour Party is temporarily our fellow traveler, but it is not a solid ally for us. While it is honest and courageous, it lacks a consistent socialist program. Let us not forget that it already endorsed the notorious resolutions of the London Conference, at which the unabashed social-chauvinists ran the show.
There are three tendencies in the English workers movement: 1) Social-chauvinism, espoused by the Labour Party, the majority of the Trade Unions, half of the British Socialist Party (Hyndman), the petty-bourgeois Fabian League, etc.; 2) the social-pacifist tendency, which is represented by the Independent Labour Party; and 3) the revolutionary Marxist tendency, which is represented by a very substantial minority (almost half) of the British Socialist Party.
Mutatis mutandis, after all, we find the same division in German Social Democracy. The infamous Kautskyist “Center” today also resolutely calls for peace. By advocating disarmament and arbitration courts, by pleading with the imperialists to refrain from extremes and practice a kind of peaceful imperialism, Kautsky has been drawing closer to the social-pacifists for a long time. And like them, he in fact reveals himself to be, in all serious matters, the ally of opportunists in times of peace, the ally of social-chauvinists in times of war.
In words, social-pacifism rejects the “humanitarian” pacifism of the petty bourgeoisie. But in reality the two are brothers under the skin. And the other side is perfectly aware of this. As the international journal of the pacifists, Die Menschheit (Mankind), correctly stated fairly recently:
“The decisions of the Easter conference of the English Independent Labour Party are worth noting. One might think they were taken word for word from our writings (that is, pacifist literature)...Kautsky has published a pamphlet titled The National State, the Imperialist State and the Alliance of States. The title alone is enough to show the extent to which Kautsky shares the framework of pacifist ideas.”
A prominent representative of petty-bourgeois humanitarian pacifism, Professor A. Forel, clearly states that he has been a “socialist” for decades. And when we read his proposal for organizing a “supranational Areopagus” [High Court in classical Athens] (see his curious pamphlet The United States of the World, 1915, pages 99-196 and elsewhere) to resolve international conflicts, when we see him exhorting the imperialists to conduct a “cultured” colonial policy, we are continually reminded of this thought: after all, and in their entire outlook, in all their skepticism concerning the revolutionary struggle of the masses, our social-pacifists are much closer to the good little petty bourgeois than to revolutionary proletarians.
[The Russian monarchist and Slavophile] Mr. Struve recently wrote that “principled pacifism has always been alien to Social Democracy, to the extent that the latter is based on orthodox Marxism.” He thus blames the Marxists and congratulates the French social-chauvinists (and Plekhanov along with them) for upholding the tradition of the “great pacifist orator Jean Jaurès” through their present conduct. Struve is right. Yes, the principle of pacifism has always been alien to orthodox Marxism. In 1848-1849, Marx openly called on revolutionary Germany, after its victory over absolutism in that country, to join with revolutionary Poland in waging a revolutionary offensive war against tsarism, against that international gendarme, against that pillar of international reaction. For Marx, this conduct obviously had nothing in common with principled pacifism. In 1885, Jules Guesde rejoiced at the threat of war between Russia and England in the hope that a social revolution would emerge from such a catastrophe. When Guesde acted in this way, when he called on the proletariat to make use of the war between two giant powers to hasten the unleashing of the proletarian revolution, he was much more of a Marxist than at present when, along with Sembat, he carries on the tradition of the “great pacifist orator Jean Jaurès.” In 1882, Friedrich Engels (see his 12 September 1882 letter to Kautsky on the fight against colonial policies in Kautsky’s pamphlet Socialism and Colonial Policy, page 79 of the German edition) wrote: “A victorious proletariat cannot forcibly confer any boon whatever on another country without undermining its own victory in the process. Which does not, of course, in any way preclude defensive wars of various kinds” (that is, wars by one or another proletariat victorious in its own country against countries that are fighting to maintain capitalism). With these words, Engels came out as an opponent of the principle of pacifism and spoke as a revolutionary Marxist.
Yes, we are by no means principled pacifists; we are absolutely not opposed to all wars. We are against their wars, we are against wars of the oppressors, against imperialist wars, against wars whose goal is to reduce countless millions of workers to slavery. However “Social Democrats cannot deny the positive significance of revolutionary wars, that is, non-imperialist wars and, for example, those that were waged between 1789 and 1871 to overthrow foreign oppression and create capitalist national states out of fragmented feudal lands or wars that may be waged to safeguard conquests won by the proletariat in its struggle against the bourgeoisie” (see our resolution on pacifism in Sotsial-Demokrat No. 40).
* * *
But does this have any relevance to our Russian disputes, to the disagreements over the question of the slogan of peace, for example between ourselves and the paper of the Russian “Center,” Nashe Slovo?
This is definitely relevant. It is true: we won’t find in Nashe Slovo a consistent defense of the principle of pacifism in the spirit of Adler. But this journal wholeheartedly defends the theory of “democratic peace” and rejects the way that we pose the question when we assert that “anyone who believes in the possibility of a democratic peace without a series of revolutions is profoundly mistaken” (see our resolution in Sotsial-Demokrat No. 40). And this journal certainly does not establish a clearly defined difference between the two worldviews, the two tactics of organized international pacifism and the organized international preparation for civil war...
First of all, we would like to dispense with one supposed point of dispute. If you believe Nashe Slovo, Sotsial-Demokrat is committing “a serious political mistake” by ignoring the mass movement that is taking place around the slogan of peace, for example the demonstration of German socialist women in front of the Reichstag, etc. (Nashe Slovo No. 100). This of course is false. This demonstration was an extremely important event, which we welcome. It became a political event because it did not restrict itself to raising the slogan of peace: the demonstrators clearly protested against social-chauvinism by booing Scheidemann. And from a revolutionary Marxist standpoint, we wonder why the slogan for this demonstration had to be limited to “peace.” Why not “Bread and Jobs”? Why not “Down with the Kaiser”? Why not “For a Republic in Germany”? Why not “Long Live the Commune in Berlin, Paris and London”?
People may tell us: The slogan of peace is easier for the masses to comprehend. The huge sacrifice of blood oppresses them, the deprivations caused by the war are boundless, the chalice of suffering is overflowing: enough blood! Bring our sons and husbands back home! It is this simple slogan that the masses will understand most easily. True enough! But since when does revolutionary social democracy adopt slogans because they are the “easiest to understand”?
Social democracy should certainly not ignore the emerging movement to end the war. To enlighten the masses, it should make use of the growing disgust with the imperialist slaughter of 1914-1915; it should itself arouse this disgust which must be turned into hatred for those responsible for the massacres. But does this mean that its slogan, the political conclusion to be drawn from these grandiose bloody lessons of 1914-1915, the message on its banner, would purely and simply be “peace”?
No, a thousand times no! Social democrats will also participate in demonstrations for peace. But in so doing, they will raise their slogan, and starting from the simple desire for peace, they will call for revolutionary struggle. They will expose the pacifism of the petty bourgeoisie—those in the camp of the bourgeoisie as well as those in the camp of the fake socialists—who lull the masses with promises of a “democratic” peace without revolutionary action.
The “slogan” of peace has no revolutionary content in and of itself. It only takes on a revolutionary character when it is combined with our arguments for a tactic of revolutionary struggle, when it is accompanied by a call for revolution, by revolutionary protests against the government of one’s own country, against the imperialists of one’s “own” fatherland. Trotsky criticizes us for ceding this “slogan” of peace “to the exclusive use of sentimental pacifists and priests” (Nashe Slovo No. 100). What does that mean? We have limited ourselves to stating the most obvious, least disputed fact: those who stand merely for peace without giving this “slogan” any other meaning are the priests (see, for example, the many encyclicals of the Pope) and the sentimental pacifists. This in no way means that we were speaking out “against peace.” The slaughter must be ended as soon as possible; this goal must play and does play a role in our agitation. But this means that our own slogan is revolutionary struggle, that agitation for peace becomes social-democratic only when it is accompanied by revolutionary protests.
Ask yourself this simple factual question: Precisely who, right now, puts forward the notion that peace as a “slogan” is enough in and of itself? Let us try to list impartially the social and political groups that want peace. These are: the English bourgeois social-pacifists; Kautsky, Haase and Bernstein; the German Parteivorstand (party leadership) (see its recent appeal); various bourgeois Leagues for Peace, including in Holland; the head of the Catholic church; a section of the English bourgeoisie (see the revelations made some time ago about English initiatives for peace); and again, in Russia, an “advanced” section of the merchant class, a whole party of courtiers, etc. Naturally, each of these groups, each of these parties is driven by motives which are not those of the others, and each raises the question in its own fashion. And that is precisely what demonstrates that the “slogan” of peace, on its own, cannot be that of the revolutionary social democracy at this time.
Another thing about which there can also be no doubt: the various general staffs and governments play a game around the “slogan” of peace, according to their strategic and political considerations. This has been the case not only during the war, but in times of peace as well. The leader of the German opportunists, Mr. Eduard David, recently made the following significant revelation in his bible of social-chauvinism: it turns out that the Berne peace conference in 1913 included the participation of...the German government.
“We later found out,” David writes, “that the inter-parliamentary attempts at an agreement between France and Germany had been supported by [German Chancellor] Bethmann Hollweg. As [Reichstag] deputy Gothein stated, the participation of representatives of bourgeois parties in the Basel Conference in 1914 had been expressly recommended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin.”
— Die Sozialdemokratie im Weltkrieg
(Social Democracy in the World War), page 81
This is how bourgeois governments act in pursuit of their diplomatic games. They cynically exploit peace efforts by the socialists, whom they maneuver like puppets. Who could say, for example, who played the greater role in the appearance on this godly earth of the recent appeal for peace of the German Parteivorstand? Was there pressure by the workers and the Social Democratic opposition? Or was there a certain “inspiration” coming from “circles” close to Bethmann-Hollweg? This would by no means be in contradiction with the repression against Social Democratic journals which published the appeal. After all, the entire “game” of the likes of Bethmann-Hollweg consists of saying: we are committed as much as ever to war to the bitter end, even after the Lemberg affair [when Lemberg (Lvov) was retaken from Russia by the German army in 1915]; we have plenty of reserves, but “the people” have already had enough victories and are now demanding “an honorable peace.”
It is noteworthy that the official defenders of the “slogan” of peace often don’t even conceal that they take account of the strategic situation of their “fatherland.” By publishing the appeal for peace of the Parteivorstand, the official organs of the German party tell us: “We are authorized to state that, effective 7 May, the leadership unanimously adopted this appeal... But its publication was delayed due to Italy’s entry into the war. After the great military successes (of Germany) in Galicia, the leadership decided to proceed with its publication” (Hamburger Echo No. 147). Those same official organs of German Social Democracy reprinted, without a single word of criticism, the commentary by the semi-official government paper (the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung) on the Parteivorstand’s appeal. “The Social Democratic party leadership,” this government paper wrote, “published its manifesto, like other organizations, based on our complete certainty of victory...”
Such is the simple logic of social-chauvinism. Our [German commanders] Hindenburg or our Mackensen have won victory on the battlefield; that is why we are proponents of the “slogan” of peace. But since “our” [French commander] Joffre or our [British War Secretary] Kitchener have not won any victories, for our part we are therefore in favor of war to the bitter end...
On the other hand, a major defeat may also prompt those responsible for these matters to wink at the “socialists”: go ahead now, fellows, raise the “slogan” of peace. That was the case during the Vienna conference, when the tsar’s troops crossed the Carpathians and Krakow was threatened.
That alone should be enough to prevent revolutionary internationalists from adopting the “slogan” of peace without supplementing it...
There have been many misadventures with this “slogan”—just think, for example, about what happened to it in Nashe Slovo. At first this journal defended it from a purely pacifist standpoint: it argued for peace with certain “conditions,” i.e., a democratic peace. Now it just calls for peace without any conditions, since it has become all too clear that “disarmament,” “arbitration courts,” and so forth, do not suit those who seek to raise the question within a revolutionary framework. But this simple “slogan” of peace is already completely meaningless from the standpoint of Social Democracy. [Russian Tsar] Nicholas II and [German Kaiser] Wilhelm II are also proponents of peace “in general”: they certainly don’t need war for its own sake...
Kautsky has defended the “slogan” of peace ever since the beginning of the war (Kampf für den Frieden, Klassenkampf im Frieden [Struggle for Peace, Class Struggle in Times of Peace]). Vandervelde like Victor Adler, Sembat like Scheidemann, claim to be internationalists and pacifists, and the same is true of all the social-chauvinists. As the end of the war draws closer, diplomatic swindles by bourgeois cliques will become a greater factor behind the scenes and the simple “slogan” of peace will become ever less acceptable for socialist internationalists.
It is wrong and particularly dangerous to think that internationalists should be guided by considerations of who is for the “slogan” of peace and who is against it. If you want to make it impossible for the internationalists of different countries to agree, to close ranks under a definite programmatic banner; if you want to erase any dividing line between ourselves and the “Center,” then the “slogan” of peace must be adopted.
The Italian Social Democrats have made known through their press their intention of convening a conference or congress of internationalists. This undertaking should be warmly supported. But it would lose nine-tenths of its significance if its efforts were restricted to what the international conference of women [Berne, March 1915] and the international youth conference [Berne, April 1915] already did. Indeed, the point is not to draft a “unanimous” resolution together with social-pacifists, which includes the “slogan” of peace, and to slap each other on the back for adopting a so-called “action program” unanimously. In fact, this would be a program of inaction. Instead, faced with the current terrible crisis of socialism, what’s posed is to get our bearings; to regroup what remains of the army of Marxists; to break with the self-declared traitors and the vacillating elements who, in practice, come to their aid; to project a course of struggle for our socialist generation in the imperialist epoch; and to create a Marxist international nucleus.
There are now countless enthusiasts for the “slogan” of peace. And the number will continue to increase. The task of revolutionary internationalists is an entirely different one. We cannot salvage the banner of socialism, we cannot regroup the broad mass of working people under this banner, we cannot lay the cornerstone of the future, truly socialist, International except by proclaiming from this day forward the full Marxist program, by providing a clear and precise answer of our own as to how the socialist proletariat must fight in the epoch of imperialism. The question for us is much broader than the months remaining until the end of the first imperialist world war. The question for us is one of an entire epoch of imperialist wars.
Not with the idea of international pacifism, but with the idea of international civil war—in this sign thou shalt conquer!
We introduced an error in our translation of Gregory Zinoviev’s August 1915 article “Pacifism or Marxism (The Misadventures of a Slogan)” in Spartacist (English edition) No. 64 (Summer 2014). The article included a quote from Rosa Luxemburg at the German Social Democracy’s 1900 Mainz conference. We translated one sentence of the quote as: “But as soon as there’s a real war, we forget to draw the practical conclusions from it and to show that our years-long agitation has not borne any fruit.” In fact, there is no negative in the sentence, which should read: “But as soon as there’s a real war, we forget to draw the practical conclusions from it and to show that our years-long agitation has borne fruit.”