The 1907 International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart

The 1907 International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart

The first volume of John Riddell’s series “The Communist International in Lenin’s Time: Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International,” has a really interesting essay from Lenin after the 1907 Stuttgart congress of the Second International.  It’s available on MIA:

It has two really good concepts:

  • Lenin starts to develop the idea of chauvinism in the workers movement, and
  • he talks about using a diversity of tactics in the event of war.  The whole idea “in case of war, use the general strike” idea was linked to the “semi-anarchist” Gustave Hervé, not to Lenin – interesting in light of the use of the “General Strike to end the war” slogan by some groups.

What follows are a few selected quotes. The whole essay is worth reading.  At the beginning of the First World War, the opportunist wing of social democracy betrayed socialism by supporting their own bourgeoisie in the war.

This vote on the colonial question is of very great importance. First, it strikingly showed up socialist opportunism, which succumbs to bourgeois blandishments. Secondly, it revealed a negative feature in the European labour movement, one that can do no little harm to the proletarian cause, and for that reason should receive serious attention. Marx frequently quoted a very significant saying of Sismondi. The proletarians of the ancient world, this saying runs, lived at the expense of society; modern society lives at the expense of the proletarians.

“…as a result of the extensive colonial policy, the European proletarian partly finds himself in a position when it is not his labour, but the labour of the practically enslaved natives in the colonies, that maintains the whole of society. The British bourgeoisie, for example, derives more profit from the many millions of the population of India and other colonies than from the British workers. In certain countries this provides the material and economic basis for infecting the proletariat with colonial chauvinism. Of course, this may be only a temporary phenomenon, but the evil must nonetheless be clearly realised and its causes understood in order to be able to rally the proletariat of all countries for the struggle against such opportunism.”

“The notorious Hervé, who has made such a noise in France and Europe, advocated a semi-anarchist view by naively suggesting that every war be “answered” by a strike and an uprising. He did not understand, on the one hand, that war is a necessary product of capitalism, and that the proletariat  cannot renounce participation in revolutionary wars, for such wars      are possible, and have indeed occurred in capitalist societies. He did not understand, on the other hand, that the possibility of  “answering” a war depends on the nature of the crisis  created by that war. The choice of the means of struggle depends on  these conditions; moreover, the struggle must consist (and here we      have the third misconception, or shallow thinking of Hervéism)   not simply in replacing war by peace, but in replacing capitalism by socialism. The essential thing is not merely to prevent war, but to utilise the crisis created by war in order to hasten the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. However, underlying all these semi-anarchist  absurdities of Hervéism there was one sound and practical purpose: to spur the socialist movement so that it will not be restricted to  parliamentary methods of struggle alone, so that the masses will      realise the need for revolutionary action in connection with the  crises which war inevitably involves, so that, lastly, a more lively  understanding of international labour solidarity and of the falsity   of bourgeois patriotism will be spread among the masses.”

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