The Peace Programme of the Revolution (1917)
First Published in english by Louis C. Fraina in 1918 in New York.
First version[edit source]
Source: Leon Trotsky: What Is A Peace Programme, Lanka Samasamaja Publications, Colombo, Ceylon, May 1956, pp.22-27.
This speech by Leon Trotsky is reproduced from pp.315-318 of the volume The Proletarian Revolution in Russia by Lenin and Trotsky, edited by Louis C. Fraina and published in 1918 in New York.
Publisher’s Introduction[edit source]
The book is now a rarity, and, as far as we know, there is no other translation of this speech available. The title given to the speech is ours.
In his editorial note, Fraina says in part:
“The first move toward the conclusion of peace was the offer of the Soviet government to all belligerents to declare an armistice on all fronts and open general peace negotiations. A day or two after this offer was made, Leon Trotsky, Commissar of Foreign Affairs, delivered an address in Petrograd to an audience of 12,000 people ...”
THE PEACE PROGRAMME OF THE REVOLUTION[edit source]
In this building on November 5, I spoke to a popular meeting at which the question of an All-Russian Congress was being discussed, and all voices raised in favour of Soviet power. The question which has been most emphatically before the people in all the eight months of the Revolution is the question of war and peace, and we maintained that only a power basing its authority directly on the people could put an end to the slaughter. We maintained that the secret treaties must be published, and declared that the Russian people, not having made these treaties, could not be bound to carry out the conquests agreed upon therein. Our enemies answered that this was demagogy. You would never dare if you were in power, they said, to do this for then the Allies would oppose us. But we maintained that the salvation of Russia was in peace. We pointed out that the prolonged character of the war was destroying the Revolution, was exhausting and destroying the country and that the longer we should fight the more complete the slavish position we should then occupy so that at last we should merely be left the choice of picking a master.
We desire to live and develop as a free nation: but, for the conclusion of peace, we had to overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie and of Kerensky. They told us we would be left without any supporters. But on November 7, the local Soviet of Petrograd took the initiative upon itself, as well as the responsibility and with the aid of the garrison and the workers accomplished the coup d’etat, appeared before the Congress of Soviets then in session and said: “The old power in the country is broken, there is no authority, anywhere and we are obliged to take it into our own hands.” We have said that the first obligation devolving upon the new power is the offering of peace parleys on all fronts for the conclusion of a peace without annexations or indemnities on the basis of self-determination of peoples, that is, each people through popular elections, must speak for itself the decisive word: Do they wish to enter into a confederation with their present sovereign state, enjoying full autonomy under it or do they wish to separate themselves from it and have full independence?
We must put a stop to a condition in which the strong can, by force of arms, compel the weak to assume what conditions of life the strong may desire: every people, be it great or small, must be the master of its own fate. Now, this is the programme not of a party, not of a Soviet, but the whole people, excepting the predatory party which dares call itself the Party of Popular Liberty but which in reality is an enemy of popular liberty, fighting against peace with all its might. With the exception of this party, the whole Russian people has declared that it will not tolerate the use of force. And this is the spirit in which we issue our peace decree.
On the day on which we passed this decree, Krasnov’s Cossacks rebelled and danger threatened the very existence of the Soviet power. Yet, hardly had they been defeated and the Soviet power strengthened, than our first act was to turn to the Allied and German powers, simultaneously, with a proposition for peace parleys on all fronts. Our enemies, the Cadets and their appendages, said that Germany would ignore us – but it has turned out otherwise, “and we already have the assent of Germany and Austria-Hungary to the holding of peace parleys and preliminary peace on the Soviet formula. And even before that, as soon as we obtained the keys to the case of secret diplomatic correspondence, we published the secret treaties, thus fulfilling an obligation that we had assumed toward the people when we were still an insignificant opposition party. We said then and we say now that a people cannot shed their blood and that of their brothers for treaties that they have not themselves concluded, have never read or even seen. To these words of mine the adherents of coalition made reply: Do not speak to us in this tongue; this is not the Modern Circus. And I answered them that I have only one tongue, the tongue of a socialist, and I shall speak in this tongue to the country and to you, to the Allies and the Germans.
To the adherents of the coalition, having the souls of hares, it seemed that to publish the secret treaties was equivalent to forcing England and France to declare war on us. But they did not understand that their ruling circles throughout the duration of the war have been talking the people into the idea that the treacherous, cruel enemy is Germany and that Russia is a noble land and it is impossible within twenty four hours to teach them the opposite. By publishing the secret treaties we have incurred the enmity of the governing classes in those countries but their peoples we have won to our support. We shall not make a diplomatic peace; it will be a people’s peace, a soldier’s peace, a real peace. And the outcome of our open policy was clear: Judson appeared at the Smolny Institute and declared, in the name of America, that the protest to the Dukhonin staff against the new power was a misunderstanding and that America had no desire to interfere in the internal affairs of Russia and, consequently, the American question is disposed of.
But there is another conflict that is not yet settled. I must tell you about it. Because of their fight for peace, the English Government has arrested and is now detaining in concentration camp George Chicherin, who had devoted his wealth and his knowledge to the peoples of Russia, England, Germany and France, and the courageous agitator of the English workers, the emigrant Petrov. I have communicated in writing with the English Embassy, saying that Russia was now permitting the presence within her borders of many wealthy Englishmen who are engaged in counter-revolutionary conspiracies with the Russian bourgeoisie and that we were therefore all the more disinclined to permit Russian citizens to be thrown into English prisons; that consequently all those against whom there were no criminal charges should be liberated at once. Failure to comply with this request will mean that we shall refuse passports to English subjects desiring to leave Russia. The People’s Soviet Power is responsible for the well-being of the entire people; wherever its citizens may be, they shall enjoy its protection. If Kerensky spoke to the Allies like a shop-attendant to his boss, we are prepared to show that we shall live with them only on terms of equality. WE have more than once said that anyone who counts on the support and friendship of the free and independent Russian people must approach them with respect for them and for their human dignity.
As soon as the Soviets found themselves with power in their hands, we proposed peace parleys in the name of the Russian people. We had a right to speak in the name of the people, for everything that we proposed, as well as the whole programme of the People’s Commissars, consists of doctrines and propositions voted on and passed in hundreds and thousands of Soviets, factories and works, that is, by the entire people. Our delegation will speak an open and courageous language: Do you agree to the holding of an immediate peace conference on all fronts? And if they say yes we shall ask them to invite their governments and allies to send their delegates. Our second question will be: Do you mean to conclude peace on a democratic foundation? If we are forced to make peace alone, we shall declare to Germany that it is inadmissible to withdraw their troops from the Russian front to some other front since we are making an honourable peace and cannot permit England and France to be crushed by reason of it.
Secret diplomacy shall not be tolerated for a single moment during the negotiations. Our flyers and our radio service will keep all the nations informed of every proposition we make, and of the answers they elicit from Germany. We shall be sitting in a glass house, as it were, and the German soldiers, through thousands of newspapers in German, which we shall distribute to them, will be informed of every step we take and of every German answer.
We say that Lithuania and Courland must themselves decide the question, with whom they will join forces and that Germany must not in words only but in deeds heed the free expression of the will of the peoples. And if, after these frank and honourable declarations, the Kaiser refuses to make peace, if the banks and exchanges which profit by the war destroy our peace, the nations will see on whose side is the right and we shall come out the stronger, the Kaiser and the financiers the weaker. We shall feel ourselves to be not the vanquished but the victors for peace hath its victories not less renowned than war. For a nation that has assumed power after having cast out its enemies, such a nation is victorious. We know no other interests than those of the people, but these interests are identical with the interests of the people of all nations.
We declare war upon war. The Czars are afraid of the conclusion of peace, are afraid that the people will ask for an accounting of all the great sacrifices they have made and all the blood they have shed. Germany, in agreeing to peace negotiations, is heeding the will of her people. She knows that they want her to answer and that if she does not answer the Russian Revolution will become the ally of the German people. France and England ought to come to the discussion on the conclusion of peace, but if they do not, their own peoples, who will know of the course of the transactions, will cast them out with rods. The Russian representatives at the peace table will be transformed into plaintiffs; the peoples will sit in judgement of their rulers. Our experience of the manner in which rulers have treated their peoples in the forty months of the war has not been wasted. “In your name”, we shall say to our brothers, “understand that the moment you turn your revolutionary strength against your bourgeoisie not one Russian soldier will shoot!” This promise will be given in your name and we shall keep it.
Second version[edit source]
Source: Leon Trotsky: Fourth International, New York, May 1942, Pages 153-158.
This version has been reedited from the original Russian by Fourth International.
EDITOR’S NOTE[edit source]
“The Program for Peace” was originally written as a series of articles by Trotsky in 1915-1916 in the internationalist newspaper which he edited in Paris, Nashe Slovo. In revised form the articles were published in the Bolshevik press in Russia during June 1917, and issued as a pamphlet. It first appeared in abridged form in English in the volume “The Proletarian Revolution in Russia, by Lenin and Trotsky,” published here in 1929 under the editorship of Louis C. Fraina. The present translation, likewise abridged, has been carefully revised and is based on the final Soviet edition of Trotsky’s writings of that period.
What Is a Peace Program?[edit source]
What is a peace program? From the viewpoint of the ruling classes or of the parties subservient to them, it is the totality of the demands, the ultimate realization of which must be ensured by the power of militarism. Hence, for the realization of Miliukov’s “peace program” Constantinople must be conquered by force of arms. Vandervelde’s “peace program” requires the expulsion of the Germans from Belgium as an antecedent condition. Bethmann-Holweg’s plans were founded on the geographical warmap. From this standpoint the peace clauses reflect but the advantages achieved by force of arms. In other words, the peace program is the war program.
Such is the case prior to the intervention of the third power, the Socialist International. For the revolutionary proletariat, the peace program does not mean the demands which national militarism must fulfill, but those demands which the international proletariat intends to enforce by dint of its revolutionary fight against militarism in all countries. The more the international revolutionary movement expands, the less will the peace questions depend on the purely military position of the antagonists.
This is rendered most clear to us by the question of the fate of small nations and weak states.
The war began with a devastating invasion of Belgium and Luxemburg by the German armies. In the echo created by the violation of the small country, beside the false and egotistic anger of the ruling classes of the enemy, there reverberated also the genuine indignation of the common masses whose sympathy was attracted by the fate of a small people, crushed only because they happened to lie between two warring giants.
At that first stage of the war the fate of Belgium attracted attention and sympathy, owing to its extraordinarily tragic nature. But thirty-four months of warfare have proved that the Belgian episode constituted only the first step towards the solution of the fundamental problem of the imperialist war, namely, the suppression of the weak by the strong.
Capitalism in its international relations pursues the same methods applied by it in “regulating” the internal economic life of the nations. Competition is the means of systematically annihilating the small and medium-sized enterprises and of achieving the supremacy of Big Capital. World competition of the capitalist forces means the systematic subjection of the small, medium-sized and backward nations by the great and the greatest capitalist powers. The more developed the technique of capitalism, the greater the role played by finance capital, and the higher the demands of militarism, all the more grows the dependency of the small states on the Great Powers. This process, forming as it does an integral element of imperialist mechanics, flourishes undisturbed also in times of peace by means of state loans, railway and other concessions, military-diplomatic agreements, etc. The war uncovered and accelerated this process by introducing the factor of open violence. The war destroys the last shreds of the “independence” of small states, quite apart from the military outcome of the conflict between the two basic enemy camps.
Belgium still groans under the yoke of German militarism. This, however, is but the visible and dramatic expression of the collapse of her independence. The “deliverance” of Belgium does not at all constitute the fundamental aim of the Allied governments. Both in the further progress of the war and after its conclusion, Belgium will become but a pawn in the great game of the capitalist giants. Failing the intervention of the third power, Revolution, Belgium may as a result of the war either remain in German bondage, or fall under the yoke of Great Britain, or be divided between the powerful robbers of the two coalitions.
The same applies to Serbia, whose national energy served as a weight in the imperialist world scales whose fluctuations to one side or the other are least of all influenced by the independent interests of the Serbian people.
The Central Powers drew Turkey and Bulgaria into the whirlpool of the war. Whether both these countries will remain as the southeastern organ of the Austro-German imperialist bloc (”Central Europe”) or will serve as small change when the balance sheet is drawn up, the fact remains that the war is writing a final chapter of the history of their independence.
Before the Russian revolution, the independence of Persia was most obviously liquidated as a direct result of the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907.
Rumania and Greece furnish us with a sufficiently clear example of how limited a “freedom of choice” is given to small-state firms by the struggle of the imperialist trust companies. Rumania preferred the gesture of an apparently free choice, when she sacrificed her neutrality. Greece tried by means of passive opposition to “remain at home.” Just as if to show most tangibly the futility of the whole “neutralist” struggle for self-preservation, the whole European war, represented by the armies of Bulgaria, Turkey, France, England, Russia and Italy, shifted on to Greek territory. Freedom of choice is at best reflected in the form of self-suppression. In the end, both Rumania and Greece will share the same fate: they will be the stakes in the hands of the great gamblers.
At the other end of Europe, little Portugal deemed it necessary to enter the war on the side of the Allies. Such a decision might remain inexplicable if, in the question of participation in the dog fight, Portugal, which is under English protection, had had greater freedom than the government of Tver or Ireland.
The capitalist captains of Holland and of the three Scandinavian countries are accumulating mountains of gold, thanks to the war. However, these four neutral states of northwestern Europe are the more aware of the illusory character of their “sovereignty,” which, even if it survives the war, will nevertheless be subject to the settlement of the bills advanced by the peace conditions of the Great Powers.
“Independent” Poland will be able, in the midst of imperialist Europe, to keep a semblance of independence only by submitting to a slavish financial and military dependence on one of the great groups of the ruling powers.
The extent of the independence of Switzerland clearly appeared in the compulsory and restrictive measures adopted regulating her imports and exports. The representatives of this small federative republic who, cap in hand, go begging at the entrances of the two warring camps, can well understand the limited measure of independence and neutrality possible for a nation which cannot command some millions of bayonets.
If the war becomes an indeterminate equation in consequence of the ever increasing number of combatants and of fronts, thus rendering it impossible for the different governments to formulate the so-called “war aims,” then the small states still have the doubtful advantage that their historical fate may be reckoned as predetermined. No matter which side proves victorious, and however far-reaching the influence of such a victory may be, the fact remains that there can no longer be a return to independence for the small states. Whether Germany or England wins-in either case the question to be determined is who will be the direct master over the small nations. Only charlatans or hopeless simpletons can believe that the freedom of the small nations can be secured by the victory of one side or the other.
A like result would follow the third solution of the war, viz., its ending in a draw. The absence of pronounced preponderance of one of the combatants over the other will only set off all the more clearly both the dominance of the strong over the weak within either one of the camps, and the preponderance of both over the “neutral” victims of imperialism. The issue of the war without conquerors or conquered is no guarantee for anybody all small and weak states will none the less be conquered, and the same applies to those who bled to death on the battlefield as to those who tried to escape that fate by hiding in the shadows of neutrality.
The independence of the Belgians, Serbians, Poles, Armenians and others is regarded by us not as part of the Allied war program (as treated by Guesde, Plekhanov, Vanderveide, Henderson and others), but belongs to the program of the fight of the international proletariat against imperialism.
But the question is: Can the proletariat under the present circumstances advance an independent “peace program,” i.e., solutions of the problems which caused the war of today or which have in the course of this war been brought to light?
It has been intimated that the proletariat does not now command sufficient forces to bring about the realization of such a program. Utopian is the hope that the proletariat could carry out its own peace program as to the issue of the present war. What alternative is there save the struggle for the cessation of the war and for a peace without annexations, i.e., a return to the status quo ante bellum, to the state of affairs prior to the war? This, we are told, is by far the more realistic program. In what sense, however, may the term realistic be applied to the fight for the close of the war by means of a peace without annexation? Under what circumstances, we ask, can the end of the war be brought about? Theoretically, three typical possibilities may here be considered: (1) a decisive victory of one of the parties; (2) a general exhaustion of the opponents without decisive sway of one over the other; (3) the intervention of the revolutionary proletariat, which interrupts the “normal” development of military events.
Status Quo Ante Bellum[edit source]
It is quite obvious that in the first case, if the war is ended by a decisive victory of one side, it would be naive to dream of a peace without annexations. If the Scheidetnanns and Landsbergs, the staunch supporters of the work of their militarism, insist in parliament upon an “annexationless” peace, it is only with the firmest conviction that such protests can hinder no “useful” annexation. On the other hand, one of our former Czarist commanders-in-chief, General Alexiev, who dubbed the annexationless peace as “a utopian phrase,” thought quite correctly that the offensive is the chief thing, and that in case of successful war operations everything else would come of itself. In order to wrest annexations from the hands of the victorious party, which is armed to the teeth, the proletariat would naturally, regardless of its desires, be in need of a revolutionary force, which it will have to be ready to use openly. In any case, it possesses no other more “economical” means to compel the victorious party to renounce the advantage of the victory gained.
The second possible issue of the war, on which those who seek to promote the narrow program “annexationless peace and nothing more” principally depend, presupposes that the war, exhausting as it does all the resources of the warring nations will, without the revolutionary intervention of the third power, end in general exhaustion without conquerors or conquered. To this very situation, where militarism is too weak for effecting conquests, and the proletariat for making a revolution, the passive internationalists [of the Kautsky type] adopted their lame program of “annexationless peace,” which they frequently denote as a return to the status quo ante bellum, i.e., the order of things prior to the war. Here, however, this pseudo-realism lays bare its Achilles heel, for actually an undecided issue of the war, as already shown, does not at all exclude annexations, but on the contrary presupposes them. That neither of the two powerful groups wins, does not mean that Serbia, Greece, Belgium, Poland, Persia, Syria, Armenia and others would be left intact. On the contrary, it is precisely at the expense of these third and weakest parties that annexations will in this case be carried out. In order to prevent these reciprocal “compensations” the international proletariat must needs set afoot a direct revolutionary uprising against the ruling classes. Newspaper articles, convention resolutions, parliamentary protests and even public demonstrations have never prevented the rulers from acquiring territories or from oppressing the weak peoples either by way of victory or by means of diplomatic agreements.
As regards the third possible issue of the war, it seems to be the clearest. It presupposes that while the war is still on, the international proletariat rises with a force sufficient to paralyze and finally to stop the war from below. Obviously, in this most favorable case, the proletariat, having been powerful enough to stop the war, would not be likely to limit itself to that purely conservative program which goes no further than the renunciation of annexations.
A powerful movement of the proletariat is thus in each case a necessary prerequisite of the actual realization of an annexationless peace. But again, if we assume such a movement, the foregoing program remains quite inadequate in that it acquiesces in the restoration of the order which prevailed prior to the war and which gave birth to the war. The European status quo ante bellum, a resultant of wars, robbery, violation, red tape, diplomatic stupidity and weakness of peoples, remains as the only positive content of the slogan “without annexations.”
In its fight against imperialism, the proletariat cannot set up as its political aim the return to the old European map; it must set up its own program of state and national relations, harmonizing with the fundamental tendency of economic development, with the revolutionary character of the epoch and with the socialist interests of the proletariat.
By itself the slogan “without annexations” gives no criterion for a political orientation in the several problems brought forth during the course of the war. Assuming that France later on occupies Alsace-Lorraine, is the German Social Democracy together with Scheidemann bound to demand the return of these provinces to Germany? Shall we demand the restitution of the kingdom of Poland to Russia? Shall we insist upon Japan’s giving Chio-Chau back to Germany? Or that Italy yield back to its owners that part of Trentino now occupied by her? That would be nonsense. We should be fanatic of legitimacy, i.e., defenders of dynastic and “historic” rights in the spirit of the most reactionary diplomacy. Besides, this “program” also demands a revolution for its fulfillment. In all these enumerated and in other similar cases we, confronted with the concrete reality, shall naturally advance only one principle, viz., consultation of the peoples interested. This is certainly no absolute criterion. The French “Socialists” of the majority reduce the consultation of the population of Alsace-Lorraine to a shameful comedy: first occupying (that is, acquisition by force of arms) and then asking the population’s consent to be annexed. It is quite clear that a real consultation presupposes a state of revolution whereby the population can give their reply without being threatened by a revolver, be it German or French.
The only acceptable content of the slogan “without annexations” is a protest against new violent acquisitions, which only amounts to the negation of the rights of nations to self-determination. But we have seen that this democratically unquestionable “right” is being and will necessarily be transformed into the right of strong nations to make acquisitions and impose oppression, whereas for the weak nations it will mean an impotent wish or a “scrap of paper.” Such will be the case as long as the political map of Europe forces nations and their fractions within the framework of states separated by tariff barriers and continually impinging upon one another in their imperialist fights.
It is possible to overcome this regime only by means of a proletarian revolution. Thus, the center of gravity lies in the union of the peace program of the proletariat with that of the social revolution.
The Right of Self-Determination[edit source]
We saw above that socialism, in the solution of concrete questions in the field of national state groups, can make no step without the principle of national self-determination, which latter in its last instance appears as the recognition of the right of every national group to decide its national fate, hence as the right of peoples to sever themselves from a given state (as for instance from Russia or Austria). The only democratic way of getting to know the “will” of a nation is the referendum. This democratic obligatory reply will, however, in the manner described, remain purely formal. It does not enlighten us with regard to the real possibilities, ways and means of national self-determination under the present conditions of capitalist economy; and yet the crux of the matter lies in this.
For many, if not for the majority of the oppressed nations, national groups and factions, the meaning of self-determination is the cancellation of the existing borders and the dismemberment of present states. In particular, this democratic principle leads to the deliverance of the colonies. Yet the whole policy of imperialism aims at the extension of state borders regardless of the national principle, of the compulsory incorporation of weak states within the customs border, and the acquisition of new colonies. Imperialism is by its very nature both expansive and aggressive and it is this qualification that characterizes imperialism, and not the changeable maneuvers of diplomacy.
From which flows the perennial conflict between the principle of national self-determination, which in many cases leads to state and economic decentralization, and the powerful efforts at centralization on the part of imperialism which has at its disposal the state organization and the military power. True, the national-separatist movement very often finds support in the imperialist intrigue of the neighboring state. This support, however, becomes decisive only in the application of war might. As soon as there is an armed conflict between two imperialist organizations, the new state boundaries will not be decided on the ground of the national principle, but on the basis of the relative military forces. To compel a victorious state to refrain from annexing newly conquered lands is as difficult as to force it to grant the freedom of self-determination to previously acquired provinces. Lastly, even if by a miracle Europe were divided by force of arms into fixed national states and small states, the national question would not thereby be in the least decided and, the very next day after the righteous national redistributions, capitalist expansion would resume its work. Conflicts would arise, wars and new acquisitions, in complete violation of the national principle in all cases where its preservation cannot be maintained by a sufficient number of bayonets. It would all give the impression of gamblers being forced to divide the gold justly among themselves in the middle of the game, in order to start the same game all over again with double rage.
From the might of the centralist tendency of imperialism, it does not at all follow that we are obliged passively to submit to it. National unity is a living hearth of culture, as the national language is its living organ, and these will still retain their meaning through indefinitely long historical periods. Socialism will and must safeguard to the national unity its freedom of development (or dissolution) in the interest of material and spiritual culture. It is in this sense that it took over from the revolutionary bourgeoisie the democratic principle of national self-determination as a political obligation.
The right of national self-determination cannot be excluded from the proletarian peace program; neither can it claim absolute importance. On the contrary, it is, in our view, limited by deep, progressive, criss-crossing tendencies of historical development. If this “right” is by means of revolutionary power, set over against the imperialist methods of centralization which place weak and backward peoples under the yoke and crush national culture, then on the other hand the proletariat cannot allow the “national principle” to get in the way of the inevitable and deeply progressive tendencies of the present industrial order towards a planned organization throughout our continent, and further, all over the globe.
Imperialism is the capitalist-thievish expression of this tendency of modern economy to tear itself completely away from the stupidity of national narrowness, as it did previously with regard to local and provincial confinement. While fighting against the imperialist form of economic centralization, socialism does not at all take a stand against the particular tendency as such but, on the contrary, makes the tendency its guiding principle.
From the standpoint of historical development as well as from the point of view of the problems of socialism, the centralist tendency of modern economy is fundamental, and it must be guaranteed the amplest possibility of executing its real historical deliverance mission, to construct the united world economy, independent of national frames, state and tariff barriers, subject only to the peculiarities of the soil and its interior, to climate and the requirements of division of labor. Poles, Alsatians, Dalmatians, Belgians, Serbians and other small weak European nations may be reinstated or set up in the national borders towards which they strive, only in the case that they, remaining in these boundaries and able to freely develop their cultural existence as national groups, will cease to be economic groupings, will not be bound by state borders, will not be separated from or opposed to one another economically. In other words, in order that Poland, Serbia, Rumania and others be able actually to form national units, it is necessary that the state boundaries now splitting them up into parts be cancelled, that the frames of the state be enlarged as an economic but not as a national organization, until it envelops the whole of capitalist Europe, which is now divided by tariffs and borders and torn by war. The state unification of Europe is clearly a prerequisite of self-determination of great and small nations of Europe. A national culture existence, free of national economic antagonism and based on real self-determination, is possible only under the roof of a democratically united Europe freed from state and tariff barriers.
This direct and immediate dependence of national self-determination of weak peoples upon the collective European regime excludes the possibility of the proletariat’s placing questions like the independence of Poland or the uniting of all Serbs outside the European revolution. On the other hand, this signifies that the right of self-determination, as a part of the proletarian peace program, possesses not a “utopian” but rather a revolutionary character.
The United States of Europe[edit source]
We tried to prove in the foregoing that the economic and political union of Europe is the necessary prerequisite for the very possibility of national self-determination. As the slogan of national independence of Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks and others remains an empty abstraction without the supplementary slogan “Federative Balkan Republic,” which plays such an important role in the whole policy of the Balkan Social Democracy; so on the grand European scale the principle of the “right” to self-determination can be effectively realized only under the conditions of a European Federative Republic.
But if on the Balkan peninsula the slogan of a democratic federation has become purely proletarian, then this applies all the more to Europe with her incomparably deeper capitalist antagonisms.
To bourgeois politics the destruction of inner European customs houses appears to be an insurmountable difficulty; but without this the inter-state courts of arbitration and international law codes will have no firmer duration than, for instance, Belgian neutrality. The urge toward unifying the European market which, like the effort towards the acquisition of non-European backward lands, is caused by the development of capitalism, conflicts with the powerful opposition of the landed and capitalist gentry, in whose hands the tariff apparatus joined with that of militarism constitutes an indispensable weapon for exploitation and enrichment.
The Hungarian financial and industrial bourgeoisie is hostile to economic unification with capitalistically more developed Austria. The Austro-Hungarian bourgeoisie is hostile to the idea of a tariff union with more powerful Germany. On the other hand, the German landowners will never willingly consent to the cancellation of grain duties. Furthermore, the economic interests of the propertied classes of the Central Empires cannot be so easily made to coincide with the interests of the English, French, Russian capitalists and landed gentry. The present war speaks eloquently enough on this score. Lastly, the disharmony and irreconcilability of capitalist interests between the Allies themselves is still more visible than in the Central States. Under these circumstances, a halfway complete and consistent economic union of Europe coming from the top by means of an agreement of the capitalist governments is sheer utopia. Here the matter can go no further than partial compromises and half-measures. Hence it is that the economic union of Europe, which offers colossal advantages to producer and consumer alike, and in general to the whole cultural development, becomes the revolutionary task of the European proletariat in its fight against imperialist protectionism and its instrument-militarism.
The United States of Europe—without monarchies, standing armies and secret diplomacy—is therefore the most important integral part of the proletarian peace program.
The ideologists and politicians of German imperialism frequently came forward, especially at the beginning of the war, with their program of a European or at least a Central European United States (without France, England and Russia). The program of a violent unification of Europe is just as characteristic of the tendencies of German imperialism as is the tendency of French imperialism whose program is the forcible dismemberment of Germany.
If the German armies achieved the decisive victory reckoned upon in Germany at the outset of the war, then German imperialism would doubtless make the gigantic attempt of a compulsory war tariff union of European states, which would be constructed completely of preferences, compromises, etc., which would reduce to a minimum the progressive meaning of the unification of the European market. Needless to say, under such circumstances no talk would be possible of autonomy of the nations, thus forcibly joined together as the caricature of the European United States. Let us for a moment admit that German militarism succeeds in actually carrying out the compulsory half-union of Europe, just as Prussian militarism once achieved the half-union of Germany, what would then be the central slogan of the European proletariat? Would it be the dissolution of the forced European coalition and the return of all peoples under the roof of isolated national states? Or the restoration of tariffs, “national” coinage, “national” social legislation, and so forth? Certainly not. The program of the European revolutionary movement would then be: The destruction of the compulsory anti-democratic form of the coalition, with the preservation and furtherance of its foundations, in the form of complete annihilation of tariff barriers, the unification of legislation, above all of labor laws, etc. In other words, the slogan of the United States of Europe-without monarchy and standing armies-would under the foregoing circumstances become the unifying and guiding slogan of the European revolution.
Let us assume the second possibility, namely, an “undecided” issue of the war. At the very beginning of the war, the well-known professor Liszt, an advocate of “United Europe,” proved that should the Germans fail to conquer their opponents, the European Union would nevertheless be accomplished, and in Liszt’s opinion it would be even more complete than in the case of a German victory. By the ever growing want for expansion, the European states, hostile against one another but unable to cope with one another, would continue to hinder one another in the execution of their “mission” in the Near East, Africa and Asia, and they would everywhere be forced back by the United States of North America and by Japan. In the case of an “undecided” issue of the war, Liszt thinks the indispensability of an economic and military understanding of the European Great Powers would come to the fore against weak and backward peoples, but above all, of course, against their own working masses. We pointed out above the colossal hindrances that lie in the way of realizing this program. The even partial overcoming of these hindrances would mean the establishment of an imperialist Trust of European States, a predatory share-holding association. The proletariat will in this case have to fight not for the return to “autonomous” national states, but for the conversion of the imperialist state trust into a Republican European Federation.
However, the further the war progresses and reveals the absolute incapacity of militarism to cope with the question brought forward by the war, the less is spoken about these great plans for the uniting of Europe at the top. The question of the imperialist “United States of Europe” has given way to the plans, on the one side, of an economic union of Austria-Germany and on the other side of the quadruple alliance with its war tariffs and duties supplemented with militarism directed against one another. After the foregoing it is needless to enlarge on the great importance which, in the execution of these plans, the policy of the proletariat of both state trusts will assume in fighting against the established tariff and military-diplomatic fortifications and for the economic union of Europe.
Now after the so very promising beginning of the Russian revolution, we have every reason to hope that during the course of this present war a powerful revolutionary movement will be launched all over Europe. It is clear that such a movement can succeed and develop and gain victory only as a general European one. Isolated within national borders, it would be doomed to disaster. Our social-patriots point to the danger which threatens the Russian revolution from the side of German militarism. This danger is indubitable, but it is not the only one. English, French, Italian militarism is no less a dreadful enemy of the Russian revolution than the war machine of the Hohenzollerns. The salvation of the Russian revolution lies in its propagation all over Europe. Should the revolutionary movement unroll itself in Germany, the German proletariat would look for and find a revolutionary echo in the “hostile” lands of the west, and if in one of the European countries the proletariat should snatch the power out of the hands of the bourgeoisie, it would be bound, be it only to retain the power, to place it at once at the service of the revolutionary movement in other lands. In other words, the founding of a stable regime of proletarian dictatorship would only be conceivable throughout Europe in the form of a European Republican Federation. The unification of the states of Europe, to be achieved neither by force of arms nor by industrial and diplomatic agreements, would then be the next unpostponable task of the triumphant revolutionary proletariat.
The United States of Europe is the slogan of the revolutionary epoch into which we have entered. Whatever turn the war operations may take later on, whatever balance-sheet diplomacy may draw out of the present war, and at whatever tempo the revolutionary movement will progress in the near future, the slogan of the United States of Europe will in all cases retain a colossal meaning as the political formula of the struggle of the European proletariat for power. In this program is expressed the fact that the national state has outlived itself—as a framework for the development of the productive forces, as a basis for the class struggle, and thereby also as a state form of proletarian dictatorship. Over against the conservative defense of the antiquated national fatherland we place the progressive task, namely the creation of a new, higher “fatherland” of the revolution, of republican Europe, whence the proletariat alone will be enabled to revolutionize and to reorganize the whole world.
Of course, the United States of Europe will be only one of the two axes of the “world reorganization” of industry. The United States of America will constitute the other.
To view the perspectives of the social revolution within national bounds means to succumb to the same national narrowness that forms the content of social-patriotism. Vaillant, until the close of his life, regarded France as the chosen country of the social revolution, and precisely in this sense he insisted upon its defense to the end. Lentsch and others, some hypocritically, others sincerely, believed that the defeat of Germany means above all the destruction of the very foundation of the social revolution. Lastly, our Tseretellis and Chernovs who, in our national conditions, have repeated the very sad experiment of French ministerialism, swear that their policy serves the purpose of the revolution and therefore has nothing in common with the policy of Guesde and Sembat. Generally speaking, it must not be forgotten that in social patriotism there is active, besides the most vulgar reformism, a national revolutionary messianism, which regards its national state as chosen for introducing to humanity “socialism” or “democracy,” be it on the ground of its industrial or of its democratic form and revolutioiiary conquests. Defending the national basis of the revolution with such methods as damage the international connections of the proletariat, really amounts to undermining the revolution, which cannot begin otherwise than on the national basis, but which cannot be completed on that basis in view of the present economic and military-political interdependence of the European states, which has never been so graphically revealed as in this very war. The slogan, the United States of Europe, gives expression to this interdependence, which will directly and immediately determine the concerted action of the European proletariat in the revolution.
Social-patriotism which is in principle, if not always in tact, the execution of social-reformism to the utmost extent and its adaptation to the imperialist epoch, proposes to us in the present world catastrophe to direct the policy of the proletariat along the lines of the “lesser evil” by joining one of the two warring groups. We reject this method. We say that the war, prepared by antecedent evolution, has on the whole placed point-blank the fundamental problems of the present capitalist development as a whole; furthermore, that the line of direction to be followed by the international proletariat and its national detachments must not be determined by secondary political and national features nor by problematical advantages of militaristic preponderance of one side over the other (whereby these problematical advantages must be paid for in advance with absolute renunciation of the independent policy of the proletariat), but by the fundamental antagonism existing between the international proletariat and the capitalist regime as a whole.
The democratic, republican union of Europe, a union really capable of guaranteeing the freedom of national development, is possible only on the road of a revolutionary struggle against militarist, imperialist, dynastic centralism, by means of revolts in individual countries, with the subsequent confluence of these upheavals into a general European revolution. The victorious European revolution, however, no matter how its course in the sundry countries may be fashioned can, in consequence of the absence of other revolutionary classes, transfer the power only to the proletariat. Thus the United States of Europe represents the only conceivable form of the dictatorship of the European proletariat.
- A large hall for mass meetings in Petrograd where this particular address of Trotsky was also delivered. – L.C.F.
- Who was released and subsequently became Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Government. – L.C.F.