How the Police and the Reactionaries Protect the Unity of German Social-Democracy
|Written||3 March 1915|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 21, pages 129-131.
In its issue of January 9, the German Social-Democrats Gothaer Volksblatt published an article entitled, “Police Protection for the Policy of the Social-Democratic Parliamentary Group”.
“The first two days of the operation of the censorship,” says the paper, which has been placed under the gratifying guardianship of the military authorities, “show with full clarity that the central authorities are particularly anxious to gag the undesirable critics of the policy of the Social-Democratic group within our own ranks. The censorship is designed to preserve ‘party peace’ within the ranks of the Social-Democrats, in other words, to preserve a “united”, “cemented” and powerful German Social-Democratic Party. Social-Democracy under governmental tutelage-such is the most important event in the internal policies of our “great” time, of the era of the rebirth of the German nation.
“Several weeks have passed since the politicians who make up our Social-Democratic parliamentary group began an energetic propaganda campaign of their views. They have come up against strong opposition in several very large party centres. Their propaganda has put the workers in a frame of mind unfavourable rather than favourable to those who vote for war credits, which is why the military authorities have sought to help the latter now by means of the censorship, now by abolishing freedom of assembly. With us in Gotha, this help is coming from the military censor, in Hamburg, from the ban on meetings.
In quoting these words, the Swiss Social-Democratic paper, which is published in Berne, adds that a number of Social-Democratic papers in Germany have been placed under censorship, and continues with the comment: “very soon there will be nothing to disturb the unanimity of the German press. If anybody attempts to affect it, the military dictatorship will firmly and rapidly put an end to that, acting on information supplied directly or indirectly by ‘Social-Democrats’ that stand for party peace.”
The opportunist Social-Democratic papers do indeed, directly or indirectly, pass on information about the radical press!
Consequently, the facts go to show that we were perfectly right in writing in No. 36 of Sotsial-Demokrat: “The opportunists are bourgeois enemies of the proletarian revolution .... In times of crisis they immediately prove to be open allies of the entire united bourgeoisie.” As a slogan of the Social-Democratic Party, unity today means unity with the opportunists and submission to them (or to their bloc with the bourgeoisie). This is a slogan which in actual fact aids the police and the reactionaries, and is disastrous to the labour movement.
We might, incidentally, mention the appearance of a splendid pamphlet by Borchardt (in German) entitled Vor und nach dem 4. August 1914, with the sub-title, Hat die deutsche Sozialdemokratie abgedankt? Indeed, it has repudiated itself, says the author, revealing the glaring contrast between party declarations prior to August 4 and the policies of “August 4”. We shall stop at no sacrifice in the war against war, the Social-Democrats of Germany (and other countries) said prior to August 4, 1914, whereas, on September 28, 1914, Otto Braun, member of the Central Committee, made reference to the 20 millions of marks invested in legal papers, and their 11,000 employees. The tens of thousands of leaders, officials and privileged workers, who have been demoralised by legalism, have disorganised the million-strong army of the Social-Democratic proletariat.
The lesson to be derived is as clear as clear can be: a decisive break with chauvinism and opportunism. Yet, vapid Social-Revolutionary babblers (J. Gardenin and Co.) have, in the vapid Paris Mysl, repudiated Marxism, in favour of petty-bourgeois ideas! Forgotten are the elementary truths provided by political economy, and the world-wide development of capitalism, which produces only one revolutionary class—the proletariat. Forgotten are Chartism, June 1848, the Paris Commune, and October and December, 1905. The workers can advance towards their world-wide revolution only through a series of defeats and errors, failures and weaknesses, but they are advancing towards it. One must be blind not to see bourgeois and petty-bourgeois influence on the proletariat as the main and fundamental cause of the International’s disgrace and collapse in 1914. However, windbags like Gardenin and Co. would aply a remedy to socialism by completely repudiating its only sociohistorical foundation—the class struggle of the proletariat—and by diluting Marxism with philistine and intellectualist—Narodnik verbiage. The call is not for strenuous work towards a rupture between the proletarian revolutionary movement and opportunism, but for unification of this movement with the opportunists of the Ropshin and Chernov type, who were bomb-throwing liberals the day before yesterday, renegades in the toga of liberals yesterday, and today delight in saccharine bourgeois phrases about the “labour” principle! The Gardenins are no better than the Südekums and the Socialist-Revolutionaries no better than the liquidators. This is why they all meet so lovingly in Sovremennik, a journal that advocates a programme of a merger between the Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.
- See p. 110 of this volume.—Ed.
- On August 4, 1914, the German Social-Democratic parliamentary party voted for war credits for the Kaiser’s Government.
- J. Garclenin—leader of the Socialist-Revolutionaries’ party V. Chernov.
- Ropshin—the Socialist-Revolutionary B. Savinkov.
- Sovremennik—The Contemporary—a literary and political monthly published in St. Petersburg in 1911-15. A group of Menshevik, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Popular-Socialists, and Left liberals formed around the journal, which had no roots whatever in the working-class masses. In 1914, Lenin defined its trend as a blend of Narodismn and Marxism.