Excerpts from the Classics: Peace, War and Internationalism

November 9, 2002

2. Peace, War and Internationalism

Given the nature of weaponry today, the struggle for peace is one of the most important, one of the struggles through which tactics brings to life a strategic policy. In fact, given the nuclear war threat it even becomes an objective condition for there to be people to pursue strategy and tactics. This section begins with the attitude of Marx, Engels and Lenin toward peace and the requirements to put an end to war forever. They then define the nature and sources of war. Lenin discusses the inevitability of war among imperialist powers to redivide the world. Quotations are then presented defining different types of just and unjust wars, including the attitude toward World War I, peace and peaceful coexistence of socialist Russia with the capitalist powers. This is followed by a discussion of the impermissability of the export of revolution. Then there are quotations about the importance and forms of internationalism, international solidarity. The concluding quotes are from Engels discussing the significance of new weaponry. “Socialism is the embodiment of a society whose international role will be peace, because its national ruler will be everywhere the same – labor!”

Marx, Civil War in France, 1870-71, MESW, p.266; MECW, Vol.22, p.7

“…our aim is to achieve a socialist system of society, which by eliminating the divisions of mankind into classes, by eliminating all exploitation of man by man and nation by nation will inevitably eliminate the very possibility of war.”

Lenin, War & Revolution, lecture, May 14, 1917, CW, Vol.24, pp.398- 99

“…A war would above all retard our movement all over Europe, completely disrupt it in many countries, stir up chauvinism and xenophobia and leave us with the certain prospect, amongst many other uncertain ones, of having to begin all over again after the war, albeit on a basis far more favorable even than today.”

Engels, Letter to August Bebel, London, Sept. 13, 1886, MECW, Vol..47, p.487

“An end to wars, peace among the nations, the cessation of pillaging and violence – such is our ideal…”

Lenin, The Question of Peace, July-Aug. 1915, CW, Vol.21, p.293

“In general, war ran counter to the aims of the Communist Party. But war that was preached today was a sacred war; it was a civil war, a war of the working class against its exploiters.”

Lenin, Speech at Public Meeting in Simonovsky Sub-District, June 28, 1918, CW, Vol.27, p.492

“Disarmament is the ideal of socialism.”

Lenin, The”Disarmament” Slogan, Oct. 1916, CW, Vol.23, p.95

“…the union of the working classes of the different countries must ultimately make international wars impossible.”

Marx, Speech on the Attitude of the IWA to the Congress of the League of Peace & Freedom, at the General Council of the International Workingmen’ Association (IWA), Aug. 17, 1867, MECW, Vol.20, p.426

“…the alliance of the working classes of all countries will ultimately kill war.”

Marx, The Civil War in France, July 1870, MESW IP 1977, p.266; MECW, Vol.22, p.7

“I maintain disarmament and with it the guarantee of peace, is feasible…”

Engels, Can Europe Disarm?, March 1893, MECW, Vol.27, p.372

“[Speaking of the working people] Their whole disposition and movement is essentially humanitarian.”

Engels, The Festival of Nations in London, end of 1845, MECW, Vol.6, p.6

“The government considers it the greatest crime against humanity to continue this war over how to divide among the strong and rich nations the weak nationalities they have conquered… “By a just or democratic peace, for which the overwhelming majority of the workingclass and other working people of all the belligerent countries, exhausted, tormented and racked by the war, are craving…the government means an immediate peace without annexations (i.e., without the seizure of foreign lands, without the forcible incorporation of foreign nations) and without indemnities.”(p.249)

Lenin, Report on Peace: Decree on Peace, Nov.8, 1917, CW, Vol.26, p.250

“Our experience has left us with the firm conviction that only exceptional attention to the interests of various nations can remove grounds for conflicts, can remove mutual distrust, can remove the fear of any intrigues and create that confidence, especially on the part of workers and peasants speaking different languages, without which there absolutely cannot be peaceful relations between people or anything like a successful development of everything that is of value in present-day civilization.”

Lenin, Interview Given Michael Farbman, “Observer & Manchester Guardian” Correspondent, Oct.27, 1922, CW, Vol.33, p.386

“War is a continuation of policy by other means. All wars are inseparable from the political system that engenders them. The policy which a given state, a given class within that state, pursued for a long time before the war is inevitably continued by that same class during the war, the form of action alone being changed.”

Lenin, War & Revolution, lecture, May 14, 1917, CW, Vol.24, p.400

“With reference to wars, the main thesis of dialectics…is that ‘war is simply the continuation of politics by other…means.’ Such is the formula of Clausewitz…and it was always the standpoint of Marx and Engels, who regarded any war as the continuation of the politics of the powers concerned…and the various classes within these countries – in a defined period.”

Lenin, The Collapse of the Second International, May-june 1915, CW, Vol.21, pp.219-20

“‘World domination’ is, to put it briefly, the substance of imperialist policy, of which imperialist war is the continuation.”

Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism & Imperialist Economism, Aug.-Oct. 1916, CW, Vol.23, p.35

“…the class contradictions dividing the nations continue to exist in wartime and manifest themselves in conditions of war.

Lenin, The Position & Tasks of the Socialist International, Nov.1, 1914, CW, Vol.21, p.40

“It is proven in the pamphlet that the war of 1914-18 was imperialist (that is, an annexationist, predatory, war of plunder) on the part of both sides; it was a war for the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence of finance capital, etc….

“And this summing up proves that imperialist wars are absolutely inevitable under such an economic system, as long as private property in the means of production exists.”

Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916, Preface to French and German editions, July 6, 1920, LLL Ed, p.10, CW, Vol.22, p.190

“Capitalism has concentrated the earth’s wealth in the hands of a few states and divided the world up to the last bit…Any further enrichment could take place only at the expense of others as the enrichment of one state at the expense of another. The issue could only be settled by force – and accordingly war between the world marauders became inevitable.”

Lenin, Speech at Polytechnical Museum, Aug.23, 1918, CW, Vol.28, p.80

“…two trends exist; one, which makes the alliance of all the imperialists inevitable; the other, which places the imperialists in opposition to each other – two trends, neither of which has any firm foundations.”

Lenin, Report on Foreign Policy to All-Russian Central Executive Committee & Moscow Soviet, May 14, 1918, CW, Vol.27, p.369

“There are just and unjust wars, progressive and reactionary wars, wars waged by advanced classes and wars waged by backward classes, wars waged for the purpose of perpetuating class oppression and wars waged for the purpose of eliminating oppression…”

Lenin, First All-Russia Congress on Adult Education, May 1919, CW, Vol.29, p..343

“Socialists always side with the oppressed and, consequently, cannot be opposed to wars whose purpose is democratic or socialist struggle against oppression.”

Lenin, Open Letter to Boris Souvarine, Dec. 1916, CW, Vol.23, p.196

[To assess a given war it is necessary to determine] “the class character of the war: what caused that war, what classes are waging it, and what historical and historico-economic conditions gave rise to it.”

Lenin,, War & Revolution, lecture, May 14, 1917, CW, Vol.24, p.398

“…take the question of the little wars they waged before the big war – ‘little’ because few Europeans died in those wars, whereas hundreds of thousands of people belonging to the nations they were subjugating died in them, nations which from their point of view could not be regarded as nations at all (you couldn’t very well call those Asians and Africans nations!); the wars waged against these nations were wars against unarmed people who were simply shot down, machine-gunned…

“The present war is a continuation of the policy of conquest, of the shooting down of whole nationalities, of unbelievable atrocities…”

Lenin, War & Revolution, lecture, May 14, 1917, CW, Vol.24, p.406

“Civil war is the sharpest form of the class struggle, it is the point in the class struggle when clashes and battles, economic and political, repeating themselves, growing, broadening, becoming acute, turn into an armed struggle of one class against another.”

Lenin, The Russian Revolution & Civil War, Sept.29, 1917, CW, Vol.26, p.29

“The socialist revolution will not be solely or chiefly, a struggle of the revolutionary proletariat in each country against their bourgeoisie – no, it will be a struggle of all the imperialist- oppressed colonies and countries, of all dependent countries against international imperialism.”

Lenin, Address to the Second All-Russia Congress of Communist Organizations of the Peoples of the East, Nov.22, 1919, CW, Vol.30, p.159

“This ‘epoch’ by no means precludes national wars on the part of, say, small (annexed or nationally-oppressed) countries against the imperialist powers…”

Lenin, The Junius Pamphlet, July 1916,CW, Vol.22, p.311

[The victory of socialism in one or several countries] “is bound to create not only friction but a direct attempt on the part of the bourgeoisie of other countries to crush the socialist state’s victorious proletariat. In such cases a war on our part would be a legitimate and just war. It would be a war for socialism…”

Lenin, The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution, Sept. 1916, CW, Vol.23, p.79

“We are not at all against ‘defense of the fatherland’ in general, not against defensive wars in general…We are against defense of the fatherland and a defensive position in the imperialist war of 1914-16 and in other imperialist wars, typical of the imperialist epoch. But in the imperialist epoch there may be also ‘just’, ‘defensive’, revolutionary wars namely (1)national (2) civil (3) socialist and suchlike.”

Lenin, Letter to G.Y. Zinoviev, Aug. 1916, CW, Vol.35, p.229

“…so revolutionary wars are legitimate and just – i.e., wars waged against the capitalists in defense of the oppressed classes, wars against the oppressors in defense of the nations oppressed by the imperialists of a handful of countries, wars in defense of the socialist revolution against foreign invaders.”

Lenin, The Thesis on the Agrarian Question Advanced by the CP of France, Dec.11,1921, CW, Vol.33, p.132

“The existence of a Soviet Republic alongside of capitalist countries – is so intolerable to the capitalists that they will seize any opportunity to resume the war. The peoples are weary of the imperialist war and threaten to make their indignation felt if war continues, but the possibility of the capitalists being able to resume it in a few years is not precluded.”

Lenin, Report to Eighth All-Russia Conference of the RCP (B), Dec.5, 1919, CW, Vol.30, p.191

“We are in the position of having won conditions enabling us to exist side by side with capitalist powers, who are now compelled to enter into trade relations with us. In the course of this struggle we have won the right to an independent existence….Today, too, we do not underestimate the danger and do not deny the possibility of future military intervention by the capitalist countries.”

“Today we can speak not only of a breathing space, but of a real chance of a new and lengthy period of development.” (p.413)

Lenin, Our Foreign & Domestic Position & the Tasks of the Party, Speech to Moscow Gubernia Conference of RCP (B), Nov.21, 1920, CW,, Vol.31, p.412

“…the victorious proletariat can force no blessings of any kind upon any foreign nation without undermining its own victory by so doing. Which of course by no means excludes defensive wars of various kinds.

“Engels, Letter to Karl Kautsky, Sept.12, 1882, MECW, Vol.46, pp.322-23

“We opposed this playing at revolution most decisively. To have carried out an invasion of Germany at the height of the unrest that was taking place there and forcibly imposed on it a revolution imported from the outside would have amounted to tripping up the revolution in Germany.”

Engels, On the History of the Communist League, Oct.8, 1885, MESW, IP 1977, p.448; MECW, Vol.26, p.324

“It is clear that this opinion would lead to a denial of the expediency of the Brest negotiations and to a rejection of peace, ‘even’ if accompanied by the return of Poland, Latvia and Courland. The incorrectness of this view (which was rejected, for example, by a majority of the Petrograd opponents of peace) is as clear as day. A socialist republic surrounded by imperialist powers could not, from this point of view, conclude any economic treaties, and could not exist at all, without flying to the moon.

“Perhaps the authors believe that the interests of the world revolution require that it should be given a push, and that such a push can be given only by war, never by peace, which might give the people the impression that imperialism was being ‘legitimized’? Such a ‘theory’ would be completely at variance with Marxism, for Marxism has always been opposed to ‘pushing’ revolutions, which develop with the growing acuteness of the class antagonisms that engender revolutions. Such a theory would be tantamount to the view that armed uprising is a form of struggle which is obligatory always and under all conditions. Actually, however, the interests of the world revolution demand that Soviet power, having overthrown the bourgeoisie in our country, should help that revolution, but that it should choose a form of help which is commensurate with its own strength. To help the socialist revolution on an international scale by accepting the possibility of defeat of the revolution in one’s own country is a view that does not follow even from the ‘pushing’ theory.”

Lenin, Strange and Monstrous, March 1, 1918, CW, Vol.27, p.71-72

“It is not the Great Power status of Russia that we are defending – of that nothing is left but Russia proper – nor is it national interests, for we assert that the interests of socialism, of world socialism are higher than national interests, higher than the interests of the state.”

Lenin, Report on Foreign Policy to All-Russia Central Executive Committee & Moscow Soviet, May 14, 1918, CW, Vol.27, p.278

“This might have been advanced as proof of the collapse of communism only if we had promised, with the forces of Russia alone, to transform the whole world, or had dreamed of doing so. However, we have never harbored such crazy ideas and have always said that our revolution will be victorious when it is supported by the workers of all lands.”

Lenin, Our Foreign & Domestic Position & the Tasks of the Party, from speech, Nov.21, 1920, CW, Vol.31, p.412

“Of course, there are people who believe that revolution can break out in a foreign country to order, by agreement. These people are either mad or they are provocateurs.”

Lenin, Reply to Discussion of Report on Current Situation, Fourth Conference of Trade Unions & Factory Committees of Moscow, June 28, 1918, CW, Vol.27, p.380

“Past experience has shown how disregard of that bond of brotherhood which ought to exist between the workmen of different countries and incite them to stand firmly by each other in all their struggles for emancipation will be chastised by the common discomfiture of their incoherent efforts.”

Marx, Inaugural Address of the International Workingmen’s Association, Oct. 1864, MECW, Vol.20, p.12

“Capital is an international force. To vanquish it, an international workers’ alliance, an international workers’ brotherhood, is needed. We are opposed to national enmity and discord, to national exclusiveness. We are internationalists.”

Lenin, Letter to the Workers & Peasants of Ukraine Appropo of the Victories over Denikin, Dec. 28, 1919, CW, Vol.30, p.293

“There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and that is – working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one’s own country, and supporting (by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid) this struggle, this and only this, line in every country without exception.”

Lenin, Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution: Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party, April 10, 1917, CW, Vol.24, p.75

“The Bolsheviks’ tactics…were the only internationalist tactics, because they did the utmost possible in one country for the development, support and awakening of the revolution in all countries.”

Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution & the Renegade Kautsky, Oct.-Nov. 1918, CW, Vol.28, p.292

“…complete victory over capitalism cannot be won unless the proletariat and, following it, the mass of working people in all countries and nations throughout the world, voluntarily strive for alliance and unity.”

Lenin, Draft Thesis on National & Colonial Questions, for Second Congress of Communist International, June 1920, CW, Vol.31, p.151

“…This revolutionary movement of the peoples of the East can now develop effectively, can reach a successful issue, only by direct association with the revolutionary struggle of our Soviet Republic against international imperialism.”

Lenin, Address to Second All-Russia Congress of Communist Organizations of the Peoples of the East. Nov..22, 1919, CW, Vol.30, p.151

“We are now exercising our main influence on the international revolution through our economic policy…The struggle in this field has now become global. Once we solve this problem, we shall have certainly and finally won on an international scale. That is why for us questions of economic development become of absolutely exceptional importance. On this front, we must achieve victory by a steady rise and progress which must be gradual and necessarily slow.

Lenin, Speech Closing 10th All-Russia Conference of RCP (B), May 28, 1921, CW, Vol.32, p.437

“The recruitment of the whole of the population able to bear arms into the armies that henceforth could be counted only in millions, and the introduction of fire-arms, projectiles and explosives of hitherto unprecedented yield, completely transformed all warfare. This revolution, on the one hand, put an abrupt end to the Bonapartist war period and ensured peaceful industrial development by making any war other than a world war of unprecedented cruelty and absolutely incalculable outcome an impossibility. On the other hand, it caused military expenditure to rise in geometrical progression and thereby forced up taxes to exorbitant levels and drove the poorer classes of people into the arms of socialism.”

Engels, Introduction to K. Marx’s “The Class Struggle in France”, 1895, MECW, Vol.27, p.514; MESW, IP 1977, p.658

“Of course, any little thing may precipitate a conflict, but I don’t think the rulers of these countries are anxious for war. The precision and range of the quick-firing arms, and the introduction of smokeless powder, imply such a revolution in warfare that nobody can predict what will be the proper tactics for a battle fought under these novel conditions. It will be a leap in the dark. And the armies confronting each other in future will be so immense as to make all previous wars mere child’s play in comparison with the next war.”

Engels, Interview of Engels by the “Daily Chronicle” Correspondent, end of June, 1893, MECW, Vol.27, p.549

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