Special pages :
The Bourgeoisie and Peace
|Written||7 May 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 83-84.
The conference of French and German parliamentarians held in Berne last Sunday, May 11 (April 28 O.S.), reminds us once more of the attitude of the European bourgeoisie to war and peace.
The initiative in calling the conference was taken by representatives from Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland. Socialist deputies from France and Germany turned up in full force. Of the bourgeois deputies quite a number of French Radicals and Radical-Socialists (petty-bourgeois democrats who are, in fact, alien and, for the greater part, hostile to socialism). An insignificant number of bourgeois deputies from Germany attended. The National-Liberals (midway between the Cadets and the Octobrists, something like our “Progressists”) confined themselves to sending greetings. From the party of the “Centre” (the Catholic petty-bourgeois party in Germany that loves playing at democracy) two promised to come but—decided not to turn up!
Among the, prominent socialists who spoke at the conference were Greulich, a veteran Swiss Social-Democrat, and August Bebel.
A resolution condemning chauvinism and declaring that the overwhelming majority of the two nations, French and German, want peace and demand the settlement of international conflicts by courts of arbitration, was adopted unanimously.
There is no doubt that the conference was an impressive demonstration in favour of peace. But it would be a huge mistake to trust the tender-hearted speeches of those few bourgeois deputies who attended the conference and voted for the resolution. If they seriously wanted peace those bourgeois deputies should have condemned outright the in crease in Germany’s armaments (the German army is to be increased by 140,000 officers and men; this new government proposal will no doubt be adopted by the bourgeois parties of Germany despite the vigorous protests of the socialists); they should also have condemned in exactly the same way the French government proposal to increase army service to three years.
That was something the bourgeois deputies would not venture to do. Still less were they capable of making a resolute demand for a militia, that is, for the replacement of the standing army by arming the entire people. This measure, which does not go beyond the bounds of bourgeois society, is the only one that can democratise the army and advance the question of peace even one step forward in a manner at all serious.
But no, the European bourgeoisie clings frantically to the militarists and reactionaries out of fear of the working-class movement. The insignificant number of petty-bourgeois democrats is not capable of a strong desire for peace and still less capable of bringing it about. Power is in the hands of the banks, the trusts and big capital in general. The one guarantee of peace is the organised, conscious movement of the working class.