From Fourth International, Vol.5 No.9, September 1944, pp.279-286.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Program of Peace was originally written as a series of articles toy Trotsky in 1915-16 in the internationalist newspaper Nashe Slovo which he edited in Paris. Trotsky revised these articles in May 1917 and reprinted them in form of a programmatic pamphlet in the Bolshevik press in Russia in June 1917. The complete text has not appeared in English. An abridged version was first made available in this country in the volume The Proletarian Revolution in Russia, by Lenin and Trotsky, published in 1919 under the editorship of Louis C. Fraina. A revised but likewise abridged version appeared in the May 1942 issue of Fourth International. This time we take the opportunity to supply our readers with an unexpurgated text. The basis of this new translation by John G. Wright is the Russian text as given in the 1923 edition of Trotsky’s Collected Works (Volume II, pp.462-482) issued by State Publishers in Moscow.
What is a program of peace? From the viewpoint of the ruling classes or of the parties subservient to them, it is the totality of those demands, the 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. From this standpoint the peace clauses merely draw the balance sheet of what has been achieved by force of arms. In other words, the peace program is the war program. But that is how matters stood 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 impose by its revolutionary struggle against militarism of all countries. The more the world revolutionary movement unfolds ’the less do the peace questions depend on the purely military position of the belligerents, the less becomes the danger that peace conditions may be understood by the masses as war aims.
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 Luxembourg 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 popular 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 extraordinary tragic nature. But thirty-four months of military operations have proved that the Belgian episode constituted only the first step towards the solution of the fundamental problem of the imperialist war, namely, the subjection of the weak by the strong.
Capitalism has transferred into the field of international relations the same methods applied by it in “regulating” the internal economic life of the nations. The path of competition is the path 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 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 slates 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 sanguinary and dramatic expression of the collapse of her independence. The “liberation” of Belgium does not at all confront the Allied governments as an independent task. 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 – the revolution – Belgium may as a result of the war 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 outbreak of the Russian revolution, the independence of Persia, which had been terminated in principle by the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907, was most obviously liquidated.
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.” 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 comes down at best to a form of self-elimination. 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. Her decision might seem 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 province or Ireland.
The capitalist summits 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 most 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 die peace conditions of the Great Powers.
“Independent” Poland will be able, in the midst of imperialist Europe, to keep hanging her shingle 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 muster several millions of bayonets.
If the war, in consequence of the ever increasing number of combatants and of fronts, has become an equation with many unknowns 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 are capable of linking up the question of the freedom of the small peoples with the victory of one side or the other.
Exactly the same result would follow the third and most likely outcome of the war, that is, its ending in a draw. The absence of pronounced preponderance of one of the warring camps over the other will serve only to disclose all the more clearly the preponderance of the strong over the weak within, each of the camps, and the preponderance of both over the “neutral” victims of imperialism. The termination of the war without conquerors or conquered is by itself no guarantee for anybody: all small and weak states will none the less be conquered, and the same applies to those who were bled white on the battlefields 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, Vandervelde, Henderson and others), but belongs to the program of the international proletarian struggle against imperialism.
But the question is: Can the proletariat under the present circumstances advance an independent “peace program,” that is, its own solutions of the problems which caused the current war or which have been disclosed in the course of this war?
We have been told 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 realize its own peace program as a consequence of the present war. Something else again is the struggle for the cessation of the war and for a peace without annexation, 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. Such were, for example, the arguments of Martov, Martynov and the Menshevik-Internationalists generally, who hold on this question as on all others not a revolutionary but a conservative position (not a social revolution, but the restoration of the class struggle; not the Third International, but the reestablishment of the Second International; not the revolutionary peace program, but a return to status quo ante bellum; not the conquest of power by the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, but proffering the power to bourgeois parties ...). In what sense, however, may the term realistic be applied to a fight for ending the war and for peace without annexations? That the war must end sooner or later is incontestable. In this anticipatory sense the slogan of ending the war is unquestionably very “realistic,” for it banks on a certainty. But what is it in the revolutionary sense? It may be objected: isn’t it Utopian to hope that the European proletariat, with its present forces, will succeed in halting military operations against the will of the ruling classes? Furthermore, we ask: under what circumstances can the end of the war be brought about? Theoretically, three typical possibilities may here be considered:
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 Scheidemanns and Landsbergs, the staunch supporters of the work of their militarism, make speeches in parliament in favor of an “annexationless” peace, it is only with the firmest conviction that such protests can hinder no “useful” annexations. On the other hand, one of our former Czarist commanders-in-chief, General Alexeiev, who dubbed the annexationless peace as “a Utopian phrase,” concluded 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 side, which is armed to the teeth, the proletariat would naturally require, in addition to its good intentions, a revolutionary force, which it will have to be ready to use openly. In any case, it possesses no “economic” means whatever to compel the victorious side to renounce the advantage of the victory gained.
The second possible outcome 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 have adapted 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 a military stalemate, 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 outcome 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 be least likely to be able or willing 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 miserly 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, the product of wars, robberies, violations, legitimism, diplomatic stupidity and impotence of peoples, remains as the only positive content of the slogan “without annexations.”
In its struggle against imperialism, the proletariat cannot set up as its political aim the return to the map of old Europe; it must advance its own program of state and national relations, corresponding to the fundamental tendencies of economic development, corresponding to the revolutionary character of the epoch and the socialist interests of the proletariat.
The isolated slogan “without annexations” gives, first of all, no criterion for a political orientation in the various problems posed by 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 fanatics of legitimism, i.e., defenders of dynastic and “historic” rights in the spirit of the most reactionary diplomacy. Besides, this “program” likewise demands a revolution for its fulfilment. In all these enumerated and in other similar cases we, confronted with the concrete reality, shall naturally advance only one principle, namely, consultation of the peoples concerned. 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 revolutionary conditions wherein 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 thus a protest against new violent acquisitions, which amounts to giving a negative expression to the right 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 brought into conflict by the imperialist struggle.
It is possible to overcome this regime only through the proletarian revolution. Thus, the center of gravity of the question lies in combining the peace program of the proletariat with that of the social revolution.
We saw above that the Social Democracy in the solution of concrete questions in the field of the regrouping and new formations 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 state 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 modern conditions of capitalist economy; and yet the crux of the matter lies precisely in this.
For many, if not for the majority of the oppressed nations, national groups and sections, 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 emancipation of the colonies. Yet the whole policy of imperialism, regardless of the national principle, aims at the extension of state borders, at 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 quality 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 (dismemberment, separation), and the powerful centralist tendencies of imperialism which has at its disposal the state organization and the military power. True, a national-separatist movement frequently finds support in the imperialist intrigues of a neighboring state. This support, however, can become decisive only through the application of military force. And as soon as matters reach an armed conflict between two imperialist organizations, the new state boundaries will not be decided on the basis of the national principle, but on the basis of the reciprocal relation of 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. Finally, 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 “just” 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 inveterate 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 redoubled frenzy.
From the might of the centralist tendencies of imperialism, it does not at all follow that we are obliged passively to submit to it. A national community is the living hearth of culture, as the national language is its living organ, and these will still retain their significance through indefinitely long historical periods. The Social Democracy is desirous of safeguarding and is obliged to safeguard to the national community its freedom of development (or dissolution) in the interests of material and spiritual culture. It is in this sense that it has taken 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; but it cannot claim absolute importance. On the contrary, it is delimited for us by the converging, profoundly progressive tendencies of historical development. If this “right” must be – through revolutionary force – counterposed to the imperialist methods of centralization which enslave weak and backward peoples and crush the hearths of national culture, then on the other hand the proletariat cannot allow the “national principle” to get in the way of the irresistible and deeply progressive tendency of modern economic life 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 idiocy 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 own guiding principle.
From the standpoint of historical development as well as from the point of view of the tasks of the Social Democracy, the tendency of modern economy is fundamental, and it must be guaranteed the fullest opportunity of executing its truly liberationist historical mission: to construct the united world economy, independent of national frames, state and tariff barriers, subject only to the peculiarities of the soil and natural resources, to climate and the requirements of division of labor. Poles, Alsatians, Dalmatians, Belgians, Serbians and other small weak European nations not yet annexed, may be reinstated or set up for the first time in the national configurations towards which they gravitate, and, above all, will be able to remain within these configurations and freely develop their cultural existence only to the extent to which as national groupings they 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 Poles, Serbians, Rumanians and others will be able actually to form untrammeled national unifications, it is necessary that the state boundaries now splitting them up into parts be cancelled, that the framework 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 cut asunder 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-cultural existence, free of national economic antagonisms 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. But, 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 a revolutionary character. This consideration is directed to two addresses: against the German Davids and Landsbergs who from the heights of their imperialist “realism” traduce the principle of national independence as reactionary romanticism; and against the simplifiers in our revolutionary camp who proclaim this principle to be realizable only under socialism and who thereby rid themselves of the necessity of giving a principled answer to the national questions which have been posed point-blank by the war.
Between our present social condition and socialism there still lies an extended epoch of social revolution, that is, the epoch of the open proletarian struggle for power, the conquest and application of this power with the aim of the complete democratization of social relations, and the systematic transformation of capitalist society into the socialist society. This is the epoch not of pacification and tranquility but, on the contrary, of the highest intensification of the class struggle, the epoch of popular uprisings, wars, expanding experiments of the proletarian regime, and socialist reforms. This epoch demands of the proletariat that it give a practical, that is, an immediately applicable answer to the question of the further existence of nationalities and their reciprocal relations with the state and the economy.
We tried to prove in the foregoing that the economic and political unification of Europe is the necessary prerequisite for the very possibility of national self-determination. Just as the slogan of national independence of Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks and others remains an empty abstraction without the supplementary slogan Federative Balkan Republic, which played such an important role in the whole policy of the Balkan Social Democracy; so on the all-European scale the principle of the “right” to self-determination can be invested with flesh and blood 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 “internal” European customs houses is 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, runs up against the powerful opposition of the landed and capitalist classes, in whose hands the tariff apparatus joined with that of militarism (without which the former means nothing) 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 unification 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 unification 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 struggle 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 and England on the one side and Russia on the other). 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 during the first phase of the war, the German imperialism would have doubtless made the gigantic attempt of realizing a compulsory military-tariff union of European states, which would be constructed completely of exemptions, 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 an autonomy of the nations, thus forcibly joined together as the caricature of the European United States. Certain opponents of the program of the United States of Europe have used precisely this perspective as an argument that this idea can, under certain conditions, acquire a “reactionary” monarchist-imperialist content. Yet it is precisely this perspective that provides the most graphic testimony in favor of the revolutionary viability of the slogan of the United States of Europe. Let us for a moment grant 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 “autonomous” tariffs, “national” currencies, “national” social legislation, and so forth? Certainly not. The program of the European revolutionary movement would then be: The destruction of the compulsory antidemocratic 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 monarchies and standing armies – would under the indicated 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,” argued that should the Germans fail to conquer their opponents, the European unification 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 need of expansion, the European states, hostile to one another but unable to cope with one another, would continue to hinder each other 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. Precisely in case of a stalemate in the war, in Liszt’s opinion, the indispensability of an economic and military agreement among 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 obstacles that lie in the way of realizing this program. Even a partial overcoming of these obstacles would mean the establishment of an imperialist trust of European States, a predatory share-holding association. And this perspective is on occasion adduced unjustifiably as proof of the “danger” of the slogan of The United States of Europe, whereas in reality this is the most graphic proof of its realistic and revolutionary significance. If the capitalist states of Europe succeeded in merging into an imperialist trust, this would be a step forward as compared with the existing situation, for it would first of all create a unified, all-European material base for the working class movement. The proletariat would 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 European Republican Federation.
However, the further the war progresses and reveals the absolute incapacity of militarism to cope with the questions brought forward by the war, the less is spoken about these great plans for the uniting of Europe at the top. The plan 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 Hohenzollern war machine. The salvation of the Russian revolution lies in its propagation all over Europe. Should the revolutionary movement unfold in Germany, the German proletariat would look for and find a revolutionary echo in the “hostile” countries 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 countries. In other words, the founding of a stable regime of proletarian dictatorship would be conceivable only if it extended throughout Europe, and consequently in the form of a European Republican Federation. The state-unification of Europe, to be achieved neither by force of arms nor by industrial and diplomatic agreements, would in such a case become the 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. Our denial of “national defense”, as an outlived political program for the proletariat, ceases to be a purely negative act of ideological-political self-defense, and acquires all its revolutionary content only in the event that 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.
Herein, incidentally, lies the answer to those who ask dogmatically: “Why the unification of Europe and not of the whole world?” Europe is not only a geographic term, but a certain economic and cultural-historic community. The European revolution does not have to wait for the revelations in Asia and Africa nor even in Australia and America. And yet a completely victorious revolution in Russia or England is unthinkable without a revolution in Germany, and vice versa. The present war is called a world war, but even after the intervention of the United States, it is Europe that is the arena of war. And the revolutionary problems confront first of all the European proletariat.
Of course, the United States of Europe will be only one of the two axes of the world organization of economy. The United States of America will constitute the other.
The only concrete historical consideration against the slogan of the United States of Europe was formulated by the Swiss Social Democrat as follows: “The unevenness of economic and political development is the unconditional law of capitalism.” From this the Social Democrat draws the conclusion that the victory of socialism is possible in one country and that it is needless therefore to make the dictatorship of the proletariat in each isolated State conditional upon the creation of the United States of Europe. That the capitalist development of various countries is uneven is quite incontestable. But this unevenness is itself extremely uneven. The capitalist levels of England, Austria, Germany or France are not the same. But as compared with Africa and Asia all these countries represent capitalist “Europe,” which has matured for the socialist revolution. It is profitable and necessary to reiterate the elementary thought that no single country in its struggle has to “wait” for the others, lest the idea of parallel international action be supplanted by the idea of procrastinating international inaction. Without waiting for the others we begin and we continue the struggle on our own national soil in complete certainty that our initiative will provide the impulse for the struggle in other countries; and if this were not so, then it would be hopeless to think – as is borne out both by historical exeperience and theoretical considerations – that revolutionary Russia, for example, would be able to maintain herself in the face of conservative Europe, or that Socialist Germany could remain isolated in a capitalist world.
To view the perspectives of the social revolution within a national framework is to succumb to the same national narrowness that forms the content of social-patriotism. Vailant, 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 that sorry experiment of French ministerialism, swear that their policy serves the cause 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, in addition to 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 development or of its democratic form and revolutionary conquests. (If a completely triumphant revolution were actually conceivable within the limits of a single, better prepared nation, this messianism, bound up with the program of national defense, would have its relative historical justification. But in reality, it does not have it.) Defending the national basis of the revolution which such methods as undermine 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 forcefully revealed as in this war. The slogan, the United States of Europe, gives expression to this interdependence, which will directly and immediately set the conditions for the concerted action of the European proletariat in the revolution.
Social-patriotism which is in principle, if not always in fact, 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 warring groups. We reject this method. We say that the European war, prepared by the entire preceding course of development, has placed point-blank the fundamental problems of modern 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 military preponderance of either side (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.
This is the only principled formulation of the question and, by its very essence, it is socialist-revolutionary in character. It alone provides a theoretical and historical justification for the tactic of revolutionary internationalism.
Denying support to the state – not in the name of a propaganda circle but in the name of the most important class in society – in the period of the greatest catastrophe, internationalism does not simply eschew “sin” passively but affirms that the fate of world development is no longer linked for us with the fate of the national state; more than this, that the latter has become a vise for development and must be overcome, that is, replaced by a higher economic-cultural organization on a broader foundation. If the problem of socialism were compatible with the framework of the national state, then it would thereby become compatible with national defense. But the problem of socialism confronts us on the imperialist foundation, that is under conditions in which capitalism itself is forced violently to destroy the national-state frameworks it has itself established.
The imperialist half-unification of Europe might be achieved, as we tried to show, as a result of a decisive victory of one group of the great powers as well as a consequence of an inconclusive outcome of the war. In either instance, the unification of Europe would signify the complete trampling underfoot of the principle of self-determination with respect to all weak nations and the preservation and centralization of all the forces and weapons of European reaction: monarchies, standing armies and secret diplomacy.
The democratic republican unification 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 uprisings in individual countries, with the subsequent merger of these upheavals into a general European revolution. The victorious European revolution, however, no matter how its course in isolated countries may be fashioned can, in consequence of the absence of other revolutionary classes, transfer the power only to the proletariat. Consequently the United States of Europe represents the form – the only conceivable form – of the dictatorship of the European proletariat.
The assertion, repeated several times in the Program of Peace, to the effect that the proletarian revolution cannot be victoriously consummated within a national framework may perhaps seem to some readers to have been refuted by the five years’ experience of our Soviet Republic. But such a conclusion would be unfounded. The fact that the workers’ state has maintained itself against the entire world in a single and, moreover, backward country testifies to the colossal power of the proletariat, a power which in other more advanced, more civilized countries, will truly be able to achieve miracles. But having defended ourselves as a state in the political and military sense, we have not arrived at, nor even approached socialist society. The struggle for revolutionary-state self-defense resulted in this interval in an extreme decline of productive forces, whereas socialism is conceivable only on the basis of their growth and blossoming. Trade negotiations with bourgeois states, concessions, the Geneva Conference and so on are far too graphic evidence of the impossibility of isolated socialist construction within a national-state framework. So long as the bourgeoisie remains in power in other European states we are compelled, in the struggle against economic isolation, to seek agreements with the capitalist world; at the same time it can be stated with certainty that these agreements, in the best case, will help us heal this or that economic wound, make this or that step forward, but the genuine rise of socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe.
That Europe represents not only a geographic but also an economic political term is graphically evidenced by the events in recent years: the decline of Europe, the growth of the power of the United States, the attempt of Lloyd George to “save” Europe by means of combined imperialist and pacifist methods.
Today the European labor movement is in a period of defensive actions, of gathering forces and making preparations. A new period of open revolutionary battles for power will inexorably push to the fore the question of the state interrelationships among the peoples of revolutionary Europe. To the extent that the experience in Russia has projected the Soviet State as the most natural form of the proletarian dictatorship, and to the extent that the proletarian vanguard of other countries has adopted in principle this state form, we may assume that with the resurgence of the direct struggle for power, the European proletariat will advance the program of the Federated European Soviet Republic. The experience of Russia in this connection is very instructive. It testifies to the complete compatibility under the proletarian regime of the broadest national and cultural autonomy and economic centralism. In this sense, the slogan of the United States of Europe, translated into the language of the Soviet State, not only preserves all its meaning but still promises to reveal its colossal significance during the impending epoch of the social revolution.
Last updated on 1.9.2008