Letter to David Wijnkoop, Later than July 24, 1915

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 24 July 1915

Written in German later than July 24, 1915
Published: First published in Pravda No. 21, January 21, 1949. Sent from Sörenberg (Switzerland) to Zwolle (Holland). Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1976, Moscow, Volume 35, pages 195-197.
Collection(s): Pravda
Keywords : David Wijnkoop, Letter

Dear Comrade Wijnkoop,

The scheme with which we are now occupied, the plan for an international declaration of principle by the Marxist Left, is so important that we have no right to delay, and must carry it through successfully to its conclusion, moreover as quickly as possible. The fact that we are late with it presents a great danger!

The article by A. P. in Berner Tagwacht (July 24) on the Congress of the S.D.P. of Holland is extremely important for our mutual understanding.[1] I welcome with the greatest joy the position taken up by you, Gorter and Ravesteyn on the question of a people’s militia (we have that in our programme too). An exploited class which did not strive to possess arms, to know how to use them and to master the military art would be a class of lackeys. The defenders of disarmament as against a people’s militia (there are “Lefts” of this kind in Scandinavia too: I argued about this with Höglund in 1910) are taking up the position of petty bourgeois, pacifists, opportunists in the small states. But for us it is the point of view of the great states and the revolutionary struggle (i.e., also of civil war) which must be decisive. Anarchists may be against a people’s militia, from the point of view of the social revolution (conceived of without relation to time and space). But our most important task now is to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the Marxist Left on the one hand and the opportunists (and Kautskians) and anarchists on the other.

One passage in the article by A. P. really revolted me, namely the one where he says that the declaration of principle by Mme. Roland-Hoist “completely corresponds to the point of view of the S.D.P.”!!

From that declaration of principle, in the form in which it was printed in Berner Tagwacht and in Internationale Korrespondenz,[2] I see that we cannot in any circumstances accept solidarity with Mme. Roland-Hoist. Mme. Roland-Hoist, in my opinion, is a Dutch Kautsky or a Dutch Trotsky. These people in principle “firmly disagree” with the opportunists, but in practice, on all important questions, they agree!! Mme. Roland-Hoist rejects the principle of defence of the fatherland, i. e., she rejects social-chauvinism. That is good. But she does not reject opportunism!! In a most lengthy declaration there is not one word against opportunism! There is not one clear, unambiguous word about revolutionary means of struggle (but in return, all the more phrases about “idealism”, self-sacrifice, etc., which every scoundrel, including Troelstra and Kautsky, can very willingly accept)! Not one word about a rupture with the opportunists! The watchword of “peace” is quite d la Kautsky! Instead of this (and quite consistently, from the point of view of the unprincipled “declaration of principle” of Mme. Roland-Hoist) the advice to co-operate both with the S.D.P. and the S.D.L.P.!! This means unity with the opportunists.

Quite like our Mr. Trotsky: “in principle firmly against defence of the fatherland”, in practice for unity with the Chkheidze group in the Russian Duma (i.e., with the opponents of our group which has been exiled to Siberia, with the best friends of the Russian social-chauvinists).

No. No. Never and in no circumstances shall we agree in principle with the declaration of Mme. Roland-Hoist. It is a quite thoughtless, purely platonic and hypocritical internationalism. Just one long compromise. It is suited (speaking politically) only to the task of forming a “Left wing” (i.e., a “harmless minority”, a “decorative Marxist signboard”) in the old, rotten and scoundrelly lackey parties (the Liberal Labour parties).

Of course, we do not demand an immediate split in this or that party, for example, in Sweden, Germany or France. It is very possible that the time for this will be more favourable (for example, in Germany) somewhat later. But in principle we must unquestionably demand a complete break with opportunism. The whole struggle of our Party (and of the working-class movement in Europe generally) must be directed against opportunism. The latter is not a current of opinion, not a tendency; it (opportunism) has now become the organised tool of the bourgeoisie within the working-class movement. And furthermore: questions of the revolutionary struggle (tactics, means, propaganda in the army, fraternisation in the trenches, etc.) must undoubtedly be analysed in detail, discussed, thought out, tested, explained to the masses in the illegal press. Without this any “recognition” of revolution remains only an empty phrase. We have no common road with phrase-mongering (in Dutch: “passive”) radicals.

I hope, dear Comrade Wijnkoop, that you will not take offence at these remarks of mine. After all, we must come to a proper agreement, in order to carry on jointly this difficult struggle.

Please show this letter to Comrade Pannekoek and other Dutch friends.


N. Lenin

P.S. I will shortly semi you the official resolution of our Party (of 1975) on the question of the right of all nations to self-determination.[3] We are for this. Now, in the struggle against the social-chauvinists, we must be more for this than ever before.

  1. Reference is to Anton Pannekoek’s article “Der Jahreskongress der S.D.P. in Holland” (“The S.D.P. Congress in Holland”), published in the supplement to Berner Tagwacht No. 170, July 24, 1915.
  2. Internationale Korrespondenz (International Bulletin)—German social-chauvinist weekly, appeared in Berlin from the end of September 1914 to October 1, 1918.
  3. Lenin refers to the resolution on the nationalities problem passed by the “August” (“Summer”) Conference of the CC of the RSDLP with Party workers, held in Poronin, September 23 to October 1 (October 6–14), 1913 (see present edition, Vol. 19, pp. 427–29).