V. I. Lenin
In the Footsteps of Russkaya Volya
Pravda No. 31, April 13, 1917.
Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, pages 115-117.
The methods of Russkaya Volya, a paper from which even the Cadets turn away in disgust, find an increasing number of imitators. Look at Mr. Plekhanov’s Yedinstvo. Intent on “exposing” Pravda, Mr. Plekhanov takes Lenin’s first thesis, quotes the words saying that the war on Russia’s part remains a predatory imperialist war, and then triumphantly asks:
“And how about Germany? Lenin says nothing about that.”
This, literally, is what he writes. The reader can scarcely believe the evidence of his own eyes. Can it be that Mr. Plekhanov has sunk to the level of Novoye Vremya and Russkaya Volya? Believe it or not, but the fact stares you in the face.
Mr. Plekhanov’s shamelessness knows no bounds. He is perfectly familiar with the Bolshevik literature published abroad. He knows perfectly well that all Bolsheviks, times without number, in their speeches, articles, and resolutions, have always declared that the war on the party of Germany was just as predatory and imperialist as it was on the part of the other belligerent “Great” Powers. The German capitalists, and their chieftain, the crowned brigand Wilhelm, are the same imperialist predators as the capitalists of other countries are.
We repeat: no intelligent person who knows anything at all about the Bolsheviks can help knowing that this is our point of view. Mr. Plekhanov, too, knows this perfectly well. He knows that Zinoviev’s and Lenin’s pamphlet, Socialism and War, was published in Switzerland also in the German language, and smuggled into Germany. And that pamphlet states as blunt as blunt can be that Germany is carrying on a predatory war for the purpose of “plundering competitor countries”, that Germany is “a young and strong robber”, that “the German imperialists have brazenly violated the neutrality of Belgium, as belligerent states have done always and everywhere, trampling upon all treaties and obligations if necessary”; that “Kautsky reconciles in an unprincipled way the fundamental idea of social-chauvinism—recognition of defence of the fatherland in the present war—with a sham concession to the Lefts”; that “opportunist-chauvinists have nowhere sunk to such foul apostasy as in Germany”.
Mr. Plekhanov knows all this perfectly well, yet he sinks to the methods of Novoye Vremya and Russkaya Volya, and tries to paint the followers of Pravda as Germanophiles.
Making a mockery of Marxism, Mr. Plekhanov further quibbles over the question as to who declared war on whom.
Mr. Plekhanov has forgotten that Marxists regard war as a continuation of the policies pursued by definite governments representing definite classes.
That both Nicholas II and Wilhelm II represented the reactionary and capitalist classes of their respective countries, that during the last few decades both had been pursuing a policy of plundering foreign countries, plundering China, subjugating Persia, carving up and partitioning Turkey, is a well-known fact. Had Mr. Plekhanov touched, however lightly, upon the history of diplomacy and foreign policies during the last few decades, he could not have failed to see this, and would not have dared to deny it.
The war waged by Nicholas II and Wilhelm II has been just the continuation of this predatory imperialist policy, which is so closely bound up with the banking capital of the two countries.
And when war is waged between two groups of predators and oppressors merely for division of the spoils of plunder, merely to see who will strangle more peoples, who will grab more, the question as to who began this war, who was the first to declare it and so forth, is of no economic or political significance.
Mr. Plekhanov, just like the German Plekhanovs, the Scheidemanns and Co., has descended to the level of the most vulgar and ordinary bourgeois chauvinist who refuses to see (if he ever did see) that war is a continuation of policy, that war and policy are bound up with the interests of definite classes, and that one must be able to understand who these classes are and what they are fighting for.
A vicious, shameless lie, a screen for the predatory policy of Nicholas II—a policy which has not been abandoned by Lvov and Co. (they have even confirmed the tsar’s treaties!)—that is what Mr. Plekhanov’s great wisdom amounts to.
This lie will mislead neither the class-conscious workers nor the class-conscious soldiers.