Continuing to review and work through this post by Dmitry Lyskov.
Where we left off in our previous episode, we were attending the Seventh Congress of the Second Socialist International in Stuttgart Germany, where we were having a roaring great time and meeting some very interesting people. This Congress passed many important resolutions, including one that obliged all socialists everywhere to oppose the looming world war (which the Congress accurately foresaw); and — here is the most important point — that if the war should break out despite all our best efforts, then we, socialists, are obliged to take advantage of the situation to do away with the imperialist governments that started it for their own mercenary ends. In other words, the war would put the socialist revolution directly on the agenda in each one of the participating nations. The corollary being so obvious that it hardly needs to be stated: That no socialist should ever ever ever ever give support to his own government in the conduct of such a grotesque and unjust war. Socialists are supposed to be immune from patriotic rah-rah propaganda that conceals an unsavory truth about Big Capital and its colonialist aims.
I think the discerning reader already guesses what I am leading up to, namely, the shocking reveal that many, if not most, socialists turned out, in the end, to be not so immune to the war frenzy, once the Big One did actually break out. In the end, it takes more testicular fortitude than people can even imagine, to stand up to the ravings of mass hysteria, once soldiers start shooting and dying, and the government and police assume a self-righteous attitude about “supporting our boys”, etc.
The Basel Congress
But I am getting ahead of myself. We need to return to the year 1912, two years before the real slaughter began. Delegates of the Second (Socialist) International met again, this time in Basel, Switzerland, to formulate their response to the Balkan War. This was an emergency meeting. The Balkan War was a big deal, and turned out to be the precursor to World War I. The Congress seated 518 delegates representing almost every nation in Europe. As the piece (I just linked) notes: “Congresses in Stuttgart in 1907 and Copenhagen in 1910 had agreed on opposition to war, but had not been able to resolve the differences between those who wanted the International to call for a strike in the event of war, and those who believed that such a commitment was unrealistic and should not be made.”
The Russian delegation was led by Alexandra Kollontai, of the Menshevik faction (later to switch to the Bolshevik faction). Georgiy Plekhanov was also there, representing the Russian proletariat, as a good professional revolutionary is supposed to do. You can think of Plekhanov as the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Lenin’s Luke Skywalker (or Darth Vader, depending on your political views). Lenin regarded Plekhanov as a mentor and was said to fear his rebuke. Which makes it doubly sad that the old friends eventually had to part ways. Again, on the issue of the war. The war was the true litmus test. Of everything. (As it turns out, when war did break out, Plekhanov supported the Russian government and the Entente powers against Germany. Hence, it follows from this, that he would not have endorsed mass strikes intended to disrupt the war effort.)
Lenin did not attend the Basel Congress, but still followed the proceedings very closely. One could expect nothing less from this professional revolutionary and Congress-connoisseur. And Lenin could see, even from a distance, that the German Social Democratic Party (SDP) was starting to go squishy on the war issue, even before the war broke out! Despite the dissenting Leftist faction, led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the majority SDP leaders were already angling to prevent resolutions mandating general strikes in the warring nations. Now, this could be a legitimate tactical issue; it is not always a good idea to mandate certain tactics in advance. Or it could show a certain lack of will…
In the end the Congress passed a compromise resolution which held back on the tactical issue of the General Strike, but was still radical enough to satisfy everybody, even Lenin. Kollontai was pleased with the result, delighted with her own experiences, and wrote to a friend: “One felt the need to frighten Europe, to threaten it with the ‘red specter,’ revolution, in case the governments should risk a war. And standing on the table which served as a platform I did threaten Europe!”
Turn Imperialist War Into Class War
We return to Lyskov’s analysis, and his reading of Lenin’s call to turn the imperialist war (when it broke out in 1914) into a “civil war”. By “civil war”, Lenin did not have in mind the actual Russian Civil War (1918-22). In his vocabulary, he meant “civil war” as a synonym for “class war”, aka Revolution. Revolution is an intra-society war of the oppressed and exploited masses against those who oppress and exploit them. It is a war intended to switch the government from one ruling class to a different ruling class. Because the government is a civil institution, hence the phrase civil war. All of this vocabulary is important. Westies, especially, have lived for decades in a state of brain-washing, where the very language itself is used against them, to control their brains and make them see things in a certain way. This especially pertains to ruling class propaganda against actual social revolutions, which are described in terms such as “seizing power” rather than “switching the government”, etc. And the term class war is presented as something particularly bloody and undesirable; which it is, of course, except that the actual ruling class wages class war every minute of every day, just invisibly, most of the time. Only very honest capitalists such as Mr. Warren Buffett even admit that this war is still on-going, when he was quoted as saying, “There has been class warfare for the last 20 years, and my class has won.” Except, just expand that 20 years to, oh, say, 10,000 years or so!
Anyhow, leaving that last bit to professional anthropologists, we saw that many international socialists sort of had their fingers crossed when they voted for the anti-war resolutions in Stuttgart and Basel. In the end, they could not find the testicular fortitude to call for the defeat of their own government and ruling class. Lenin had no such qualms. When war broke out, he openly called for the defeat — not of the nation of Russia, but of the Russian monarchy. A fine distinction, of course, since, according to monarchs everywhere, l’état c’est moi, but others might beg to disagree.
Lenin was never one to waffle around with words: His definition of the Russian defeat that he desired, was Über-clear: “In Russia, due to its [economic] backwardness, and not having yet completed even the bourgeois revolution, the main tasks remain as before, with three main conditions for a functional democratic transformation: A democratic Republic (with complete rights and self-determination of all nations); the confiscation of landowner plots; and an 8-hour working day.” In other words, according to Lyskov, Lenin was not calling for the military defeat of Russia, there is nothing in there proposing German occupation and administration of the former Empire. Lenin was calling for the fall of the Romanov monarchy and the formation of a Rusisan Democratic Republican government in its place. Quite a distinction!
And this is precisely what Lenin had in mind when he called for the “defeat of one’s own government” and “turning the imperialist war into a civil war”. All of which terrible phrases, which have frightened children for decades, conceal a much more benign meaning. Lyskov also remarks, ironically, that nowadays the word “Revolution” sounds benign to most people, but “Civil War” sounds horrible; but a hundred years ago, it was the other way around!
When the February (1917) Revolution broke out, the Romanovs left town, and the reins of government passed into the hands mainly of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. And something clicked in their heads around this time, and these old socialists remembered the resolutions that they had voted for, in Stuttgart and Basel. Hence, in March 1917 they published a manifesto addressed “To The Nations Of The World”. The manifesto called on the proletarians of all nations to shrug off the yoke of the ruling classes, and to work together “to end this awful war, the shame of humanity”.
The Manifesto found resonance in Russian society and coincided with the thoughts and desires of the vast majority of the Russian people.
[to be continued]