The International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart (Kalendar dyla vsekh, 1908)

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The article “The International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart” was written by Lenin at the request of Zerno Publishers, who had undertaken to issue Kalendar dlya vsekh, 1908 (Calendar for All for 1908) in an attempt to use a legal opportunity for publishing illegal literature. Lenin received a prospectus from the publishers together with a list of contributors, including M.S. Olminsky, N.A. Rozhkov, and N.N. Baturin, who wrote articles for the Kalendar on the history of the Russian workers’ movement, in particular of the Northern League of Russian Workers as well as of the Emancipation of Labour group. The Kalendar dealt with the economic and political situation in Russia, the activities of the Second Duma, questions of foreign policy, the activities of the trade unions, the strike movement an he condition of the peasantry, and gave a chronicle of the revolutionary struggle in Russia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Kalendar was issued in an edition of 60,000 copies and was distributed at factories and in the army and navy (not counting a few dozen copies which were confiscated by the police).

The recent Congress in Stuttgart was the twelfth congress of the proletarian International. The first live congresses belong to the period of the First International (1866-72), which was guided by Marx, who, as Bebel aptly observed, tried to achieve international unity of the militant proletariat from above. This attempt could not be successful until the national socialist parties were consolidated and strengthened, but the activities of the First International rendered great services to the labour movement of all countries and left lasting traces.

The Second International was inaugurated at the International Socialist Congress in Paris in 1889. At the subsequent congresses in Brussels (1891), Zurich (1893), London (1896), Paris (1900), and Amsterdam (1904), this new International, resting on strong national parties, was finally consolidated. In Stuttgart there were 884 delegates from 25 nations of Europe, Asia (Japan and some from India), America, Australia, and Africa (one delegate from South Africa).

The great importance of the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart lies in the fact that it marked the final consolidation of the Second International and the transformation of international congresses into business like meetings which exercise very considerable influence on the nature and direction of socialist activities throughout the world. Formally, the decisions of the International congresses are not binding on the individual nations, but their moral significance is such that the non-observance of decisions is, in fact, an exception which is rarer than the non-observance by the individual parties of the decisions of their own congresses. The Amsterdam Congress succeeded in uniting the French socialists, and its resolution against ministerialism[1] really expressed the will of the class-conscious proletariat of the whole world and determined the policy of the working-class parties.

The Stuttgart Congress made a big stride forward in the same direction, and on a number of important issues proved to be the supreme body determining the political line of socialism. The Stuttgart Congress, more firmly even than the Amsterdam Congress, laid this line down in the spirit of revolutionary Social-Democracy as opposed to opportunism. Die Gleichheit, the organ of the German Social-Democratic women workers, edited by Clara Zetkin, justly observed in this connection:

“On all questions the various deviations of certain socialist parties towards opportunism were corrected in a revolutionary sense with the co-operation of the socialists of all countries.”

The remarkable and sad feature in this connection was that German Social-Democracy, which hitherto had always upheld the revolutionary standpoint in Marxism, proved to be unstable, or took an opportunist stand. The Stuttgart Congress confirmed a profound observation which Engels once made concerning the German labour movement. On April 29, 1886, Engels wrote to Sorge, a veteran of the First International:

“In general it is a good thing.that the leadership of the Germans is being challenged, especially after they have elected so many philistine elements (which is unavoidable, it is true). In Germany everything becomes philistine in calm times; the sting of French competition is thus absolutely necessary. And it will not be lacking.”[2]

The sting of. French competition was not lacking at Stuttgart, and this sting proved to be really necessary, for the Germans displayed a good deal of philistinism. It is especially important for the Russian Social-Democrats to bear this in mind, for our liberals (and not only the liberals) are trying their hardest to represent the least creditable features of German Social-Democracy as a model worthy of imitation. The most thoughtful and outstanding minds among the German Social-Democrats have noted this fact themselves and, casting aside all false shame, have definitely pointed to it as a warning.

“In Amsterdam,” writes Clara Zetkin’s journal, “the revolutionary leit-motiv of all the debates in the parliament of the world proletariat was the Dresden resolution; in Stuttgart a jarring opportunist note was struck by Vollmar’s speeches in the Commission on Militarism, by Pup low’s speeches in the Emigration Commission, and by David’s [and, we would add, Bernstein’s] speeches in the Colonial Commission. On this occasion, in most of the commissions and on most issues, the representatives of Germany were leaders of opportunism.” And K. Kautsky, in appraising the Stuttgart Congress, writes: ". . .the leading role which German Social-Democracy has actually played in the Second International up to now was not in evidence on this occasion.”

Let us now examine individual questions that were discussed at the Congress. The differences of opinion on the colonial question could not be ironed out in the Commission. The dispute between the opportunists and the revolutionaries was settled by the Congress itself, settled in favour of the revolutionaries by a majority of 127 votes against 108, with 10 abstentions. Incidentally, let us note the gratifying fact that the socialists of Russia all voted unanimously on all questions in a revolutionary spirit. (Russia had 20 votes of which 10 were given to the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party without the Poles, 7 to the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and 3 to the representatives of the trade unions. Poland had 10 votes: the Polish Social-Democrats—4, and the Polish Socialist Party and the non-Russian parts of Poland—6. Finally the two representatives of Finland had 8 votes.)

On the colonial question an opportunist majority was formed in the Commission, and the following monstrous phrase appeared in the draft resolution: “The Congress does not in principle and for all time reject all colonial policy, which, under a socialist regime, may have a civilising effect.” In reality this proposition was tantamount to a direct retreat towards bourgeois policy and a bourgeois world outlook that justifies colonial wars and atrocities. It was a retreat towards Roosevelt, said one of the American delegates. The attempts to justify this retreat by the tasks of a “socialist colonial policy” and of constructive reform work in the colonies were unfortunate in the extreme. Socialism has never refused to advocate reforms in the colonies as well; but this can have nothing in common with weakening our stand in principle against conquests, subjugation of other nations, violence, and plunder, which constitute “colonial policy”. The minimum programme of all the socialist parties applies both to the home countries and the colonies. The very concept “socialist colonial pol icy” is a hopeless muddle. The Congress quite rightly deleted the above-quoted words from the resolution and substituted for them a condemnation of colonial policy that was sharper than that contained in former resolutions.

The resolution on the attitude of the socialist parties towards the trade unions is of particularly great importance for us Russians. In our country this question is on the order of the day. The Stockholm Congress settled it in favour of non-Party trade unions, i.e., it confirmed the position of our neutralists, headed by Plekhanov. The London Congress took a step towards Party trade unions as opposed to neutrality. As is known, the London resolution gave rise to a violent dispute and dissatisfaction in some of the trade unions and especially in the bourgeois-democratic press.

In Stuttgart the actual issue at stake was this: neutrality of the trade unions or their still closer alignment with the Party? And, as the reader may gather from the resolution, the International Socialist Congress went on record for closer alignment of the unions with the Party. There is nothing in the resolution to suggest that the trade unions should be neutral or non-party. Kautsky, who in the German Social-Democratic Party advocated alignment of the. unions with the Party as opposed to the neutrality advocated by Bebel, was therefore fully entitled to announce to the Leipzig workers in his report on the Stuttgart Congress (Vorwärts,[3] 1907, No. 209, Beilage):

“The resolution of the Stuttgart Congress says all that we need. It puts an end to neutrality for ever.”

Clara Zetkin writes:

“In principle, no one [in Stuttgart] any longer disputed the basic historical tendency of the proletarian class struggle to link the political with the economic struggle, to unite the political and economic organisations as closely as possible into a single socialist working-class force. Only the representative of the Russian Social-Democrats, Comrade Plekhanov [she should have said the representative of the Mensheviks, who delegated him to the Commission as an advocate of “neutrality”] and the majority of the French delegation attempted, by rather unconvincing arguments, to justify a certain limitation of this principle on the plea that special conditions prevailed in their countries. The overwhelming majority of the Congress favoured a resolute policy of unity between Social-Democracy and the trade unions.

It should be mentioned that Plekhanov’s unconvincing (as Zetkin rightly considered it) argument went the rounds of the Russian legally published papers in this form. In the Commission of the Stuttgart Congress Plekhanov referred to the fact that “there are eleven revolutionary parties in Russia”; “which one of them should the trade unions unite with?” (We are quoting from Vorwärts, No. 196,1. Beilage.) This reference of Plekhanov’s is wrong both in fact and in principle. Actually no more than two parties in every nationality of Russia are contending for influence over the socialist proletariat: the Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Polish Social-Democrats[4] and the Polish Socialist Party,[5] the Lettish Social-Democrats and the Lettish Socialist-Revolutionaries (known as the Lettish Social-Democratic League), the Armenian Social-Democrats and the Dashnaktsutyuns,[6] etc. The Russian delegation in Stuttgart also at once divided into two sections. The figure eleven is quite arbitrary and misleads the workers. From standpoint of principle Plekhanov is wrong because the struggle between proletarian and petty-bourgeois socialism, in Russia is inevitable everywhere, including the trade unions. The British delegates, for example, never thought of opposing the resolution, although they, too, have two contending socialist parties—the Social-Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party.

That the idea of neutrality, which was rejected in Stuttgart, has already caused no little harm to the labour movement is clearly borne out by the example of Germany. There, neutrality has been advocated and applied more than anywhere else. As a result, the trade unions of Germany have deviated so obviously towards opportunism that this deviation was openly admitted even by Kautsky, who is so cautious on this question. In his report to the Leipzig workers he bluntly stated that the “conservatism” displayed by the German delegation in Stuttgart “becomes understandable if we bear in mind the composition of this. delegation. Half of it consisted of representatives of the trade unions, and thus the ‘Right wing’ of the Party appeared to have more strength than it actually has in the Party.”

The resolution of the Stuttgart Congress should undoubtedly hasten a decisive break of Russian Social-Democracy with the idea of neutrality so beloved by our liberals. While observing the necessary caution and gradualness, and without taking any impetuous or tactless steps, we must work steadily in the trade unions towards bringing them closer and closer to the Social-Democratic Party.

Further, on the question of emigration and immigration, a clear difference of opinion arose between the opportunists and the revolutionaries in the Commission of the Stuttgart Congress. The opportunists cherished the idea of limiting the right of migration of backward, undeveloped workers—especially the Japanese and the Chinese. In the minds of these opportunists the spirit of narrow craft isolation, of trade-union exclusiveness, outweighed the consciousness of socialist tasks: the work of educating and organising those strata of the proletariat which have not yet been drawn into the labour movement. The Congress rejected everything that smacked of this spirit. Even in the Commission there were only a few solitary votes in favour of limiting freedom of migration, and recognition of the solidarity of the workers of all countries in the class struggle is the keynote of the resolution adopted by the International Congress.

The resolution on women’s suffrage was also adopted unanimously. Only one Englishwoman from the semi-bourgeois Fabian Society defended the admissibility of a struggle not for full women’s suffrage but for one limited to those possessing property. The Congress rejected this unconditionally and declared in favour of women workers campaigning for the franchise, not in conjunction with the bourgeois supporters of women’s rights, hut in conjunction with the class parties of the proletariat. The Congress recognised that in the campaign for women’s suffrage it was necessary to uphold fully the principles of socialism and equal rights for men and women without distorting those principles for the sake of expediency.

In this connection an interesting difference of opinion arose in the Commission. The Austrians (Viktor Adler, Adelheid Popp) justified their tactics in the struggle for universal manhood suffrage: for the sake of winning this suffrage, they thought it expedient in their campaign not to put the demand for women’s suffrage, too, in the fore ground. The German Social-Democrats, and especially Clara Zetkin, had protested against this when the Austrians were campaigning for universal suffrage. Zetkin declared in the press that they should not under any circumstances have neglected the demand for women’s suffrage, that the Austrians had opportunistically sacrificed principle to expediency, and that they would not have narrowed the scope of their agitation, but would have widened it and increased the force of the popular movement had they fought for women’s suffrage with the same energy. In the Commission Zetkin was supported whole-heartedly by another prominent German woman Social-Democrat, Zietz. Adler’s amendment, which indirectly justified the Austrian tactics, was rejected by 12 votes to 9 (this amendment stated only that there should be no abatement of the struggle for a suffrage that would really extend to all citizens, instead of stating that the struggle for the suffrage should always include the demand for equal rights for men and women). The point of view of the Commission and of the Congress may be most accurately expressed in the following words of the above-mentioned Zietz in her speech at the International Social ist Women’s Conference (this Conference took place in Stuttgart at the same time as the Congress):

“In principle we must demand all that we consider to be correct,” said Zietz, “and only when our strength is inadequate for more, do we accept what we are able to get. That has always been the tactics of Social-Democracy. The more modest our demands the more modest will the government be in its concessions....” This controversy between the Austrian and German women Social-Democrats will enable the reader to see how severely the best Marxists treat the slightest deviation from the principles of consistent revolutionary tactics.

The last day of the Congress was devoted to the question of militarism in which everyone took the greatest interest. The notorious Hervé tried to defend a very, untenable position. He was unable to link up war with the capitalist regime in general, and anti-militarist agitation with the entire work of socialism. Hervé’s plan of “answering” any war by strike action or an uprising betrayed a complete failure to understand that the employment of one or other means of struggle depends on the objective conditions of the particular crisis, economic or political, precipitated by the war, and not on any previous decision that revolutionaries may have made.

But although Hervé did reveal frivolity, superficiality, and infatuation with rhetorical phrases, it would be extremely short-sighted to counter him merely by a dogmatic statement of the general truths of socialism. Vollmar in particular fell into this error (from which Bebel and Guesde were not entirely free). With the extraordinary conceit of a man infatuated with stereotyped parliamentarism, he attacked Hervé without noticing that his own narrow-mindedness and thick-skinned opportunism make one admit the living spark in Hervéism, despite the theoretically absurd and nonsensical way in which Hervé himself presents the question. It does happen sometimes that at a new turning-point of a movement, theoretical absurdities conceal some practical truth. And it was this aspect of the question, the appeal not to prize only parliamentary methods of struggle, the appeal to act in accordance with the new conditions of a future war and future crises, that was stressed by the revolutionary Social-Democrats, especially by Rosa Luxemburg in her speech. Together with the Russian Social-Democratic delegates (Lenin and Martov—who here spoke in full harmony) Rosa Luxemburg proposed amendments to Bebel’s resolution, and these amendments emphasised the need for agitation among the youth, the necessity of taking advantage of the crisis created by war for the purpose of hastening the downfall of the bourgeoisie, the necessity of bearing in mind the inevitable change of methods and means of struggle as the class struggle sharpens and the political situation alters. In the end Bebel’s dogmatically one-sided, dead resolution, which was open to a Vollmarian interpretation, became transformed into an altogether different resolution. All the theoretical truths were repeated in it for the benefit of the Hervéists, who are capable of letting anti-militarism make them forget socialism. But these truths serve as an introduction not to a justification of parliamentary cretinism, not to the sanction of peaceful methods alone, not to the worship of the present relatively peaceful and quiet situation, but to the acceptance of all methods of struggle, to the appraisal of the experience of the revolution in Russia, to the development of the active creative side of the movement.

This most outstanding, most important feature of the Congress resolution on anti-militarism has been very aptly caught in Zetkin’s journal, to which we have already referred more than once.

“Here too,” Zetkin says of the anti-militarist resolution, “the revolutionary energy [Tatkraft] and courageous faith of the working class in its fighting capacity won in the end, winning, on the one hand, over the pessimistic gospel of impotence and the hidebound tendency to stick to old, exclusively parliamentary methods of struggle, and, on the other hand, over the banal anti-militarist sport of the French semi-anarchists of the. Hervé type. The resolution, which was finally carried unanimously both by the Commission and by nearly 900 delegates of all countries, expresses in vigorous terms the gigantic upswing of the revolutionary labour movement since the last International Congress; the resolution puts forward as a principle that proletarian tactics should be flexible, capable of developing, and sharpening [Zuspitzung] in proportion as conditions ripen for that purpose.”

Hervéism has been rejected, but rejected not in favour of opportunism, not from the point of view of dogmatism and passivity. The vital urge towards more and more resolute and new methods of struggle is fully recognised by the international proletariat and linked up with the intensification of all the economic contradictions, with all the conditions of the crises engendered by capitalism.

Not the empty Hervéist threat, but the clear realisation that the social revolution is inevitable, the firm determination to fight to the end, the readiness to adopt the most revolutionary methods of struggle—that is the significance of the resolution of the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart on the question of militarism.

The army of the proletariat is gaining strength in all countries. Its class-consciousness, unity, and determination are growing by leaps and bounds. And capitalism is effectively ensuring more frequent crises, which this army will take advantage of to destroy capitalism.

  1. Ministerialism (Millerandism)—an opportunist trend in West-European socialist parties in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, given this name after the French socialist A. Millerand, who joined the reactionary bourgeois government of France in 1899 and pursued an imperialist policy in concert with the bourgeoisie.
  2. Briefe end Auszüge aus Briefen von Joh. Philbecker, Jos. Dietzgen, Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx und A. an Sorge end Andere, S. 220.
  3. Vorwärts—a daily newspaper, the central organ of the German Social-Democratic Party, published in Berlin from 1891 according to a decision of the Halle Congress of the Party as successor to the Berliner Volksblatt (founded in 1884), under the name Vorwärts. Berliner Volksblatt. Engels used its columns to combat all manifestations of opportunism. In the late nineties, after the death of Engels, the editorial hoard of the newspaper was in the hands of the Right wing of the Party and regularly published articles by the opportunists. Vorwärts gave a tendentious picture of the fight against opportunism and revisionism in the RSDLP, supporting the Economists, and later, after the split in the Party, the Mensheviks. During the years of reaction in Russia it published slanderous articles by Trotsky, while denying Lenin and the Bolsheviks the opportunity to controvert him and give an objective account of the state of affairs within the Party.
    During the First World War Vorwärts took a social-chauvinist stand. After the Great October Socialist Revolution it conducted anti-Soviet propaganda. It was issued in Berlin until 1933. .
  4. The Polish Social-Democrats members of the Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (S.D.K.P.&L.), the revolutionary party of the Polish working class, founded in 1893 as the Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland, and from August 1900, after the Congress of the Social-Democratic organisations of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, where the Polish Social-Democrats merged with part of the Lithuanian Social-Democrats, it became known as the Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania. The party rendered a service in that it guided the Polish workers’ movement towards an alliance with the Russian workers’ movement and opposed nationalism.
    During the revolution of 1905-07 the S.D.K.P.&L. fought under slogans that were close to those of the Bolshevik Party and took an uncompromising stand in regard to the liberal bourgeoisie. At that time the S.D.K.P.&L. was guilty of a number of errors: it failed to understand Lenin’s theory of the socialist revolution and the leading role of the Party in the democratic revolution, and it underestimated the role of the peasantry as an ally of the working class and the significance of the national-liberation movement. While criticising the erroneous views of the S.D.K.P.&L., Lenin did not overlook the services it had rendered to the revolutionary movement in Poland. He pointed out that the Polish Social-Democrats had “created for the first time a purely proletarian party in Poland and proclaimed the vitally important principle of close union between the Polish and Russian workers in their class struggle” (see present edition, Vol. 20, “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination”). At the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the RSDLP in 1906 the S.D.K.P.&L. was admitted to the RSDLP in the capacity of a territorial organisation.
    The S.D.K.P.&L. hailed the October Socialist Revolution and developed a struggle for the victory of the proletarian revolution in Poland. In December 1918, at the Unity Congress of the S.D.K.P. & L. and the P.P.S. Left wing, the two parties united, forming the Communist Workers’ Party of Poland.
  5. The Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.Polska Partia Socjalistyczna)—a reformist nationalist party founded in 1892.
  6. Dashnaktsutyuns—members of the nationalist bourgeois party of that name. Founded in the early nineties of the nineteenth century in Turkish Armenia with the aim of liberating the Turkish Armenians from the Sultan’s yoke, this party was a bourgeois-democratic conglomerate of representatives of different classes. Be sides the bourgeoisie, its membership consisted largely of intellectuals, and included also peasants and workers uninfluenced by Social-Democratic propaganda, and some lumpen-proletarians, who made up the so-called “Zinvori” squads.
    On the eve of the 1905-07 revolution the Dashnaktsutyuns transferred their activities to the Caucasus and established close ties with the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Left wing of the party, which formed the “Young Dashnaktsutyun” group, joined the S.R. Party in 1907.
    The activities of the Dashnaktsutyuns were anti-popular. Their nationalist propaganda did much harm to the cause of the international education of the proletariat and the working masses of Armenia and the whole of Transcaucasia.
    After the bourgeois-democratic revolution of February 1917 the Dashnaks supported the policy of the bourgeois Provisional Government; after the October Socialist Revolution they formed a counter-revolutionary bloc with the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and Musavatists against the Bolsheviks. In 1918-20, the Dashnaks headed the bourgeois-nationalist counter-revolutionary government of Armenia; all their actions helped to convert Armenia into a colony of the foreign imperialists and a base for the Anglo-French interventionists and Russian whiteguards in their fight against the Soviet government. The working people of Armenia under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party and with the assistance of the Red Army, overthrew the Dashnak government in November 1920. With the victory of the Soviets, the Dashnaktsutyun organisations in Transcaucasia were broken up and suppressed.