(In the middle of the First World War, some sections of socialists opposed to the social-chauvinist lies about “defense of the fatherland” in the imperialist war, raised their voices in favour of replacing the old Social-Democratic minimum-programme demand for a “militia”, or “the armed nation,” by a new demand: “disarmament.” Here is Lenin’s response to this demand and his views on war and revolution formulated on the eve of the Great November Revolution. We are reproducing this from Lenin’s Military Programme of Proletarian Revolution. — ed.)


Their (the disarmament advocates’ — ed) principal argument is that the disarmament demand is the clearest, most decisive, most consistent expression of the struggle against all militarism and against all war.

But in this principal argument lies the disarmament advocates’ principal error. Socialists cannot, without ceasing to be socialists, be opposed to all war.

Firstly, socialists have never been, nor can they ever be, opposed to revolutionary wars. The bourgeoisie of the imperialist “Great” Powers has become thoroughly reactionary, and the war this bourgeoisie is now waging we regard as a reactionary, slave-owners’ and criminal war. But what about a war against this bourgeoisie? A war, for instance, waged by peoples oppressed by and dependent upon this bourgeoisie, or by colonial peoples, for liberation? In Section 5 of the InternationaleJugend-lntemationale (The Youth International) — Organ of the International League of Socialist Youth Organizations, which was associated with the Zimmerwald Left. It was published from September 1915 to May 1918 in Zurich. group we read: “National wars are no longer possible in the era of this unbridled imperialism.”

That is obviously wrong.

The history of the 20th century, this century of “unbridled imperialism,” is replete with colonial wars. But what we Europeans, the imperialist oppressors of the majority of the world’s peoples, with our habitual, despicable European chauvinism, call “colonial wars” are often national wars, or national rebellions of these oppressed peoples. One of the main features of imperialism is that it accelerates capitalist development in the most backward countries, and thereby extends and intensifies the struggle against national oppression. That is a fact, and from it inevitably follows that imperialism must often give rise to national wars. Junius (Rosa Luxemburg – ed.), who defends the above-quoted “theses” in her pamphlet, says that in the imperialist era every national war against an imperialist Great Power leads to intervention of a rival imperialist Great Power. Every national war is thus turned into an imperialist war. But that argument is wrong, too. This can happen, but does not always happen. Many colonial wars between 1900 and 1914 did not follow that course. And it would be simply ridiculous to declare, for instance, that after the present war, if it ends in the utter exhaustion of all the belligerents, “there can be no” national, progress, revolutionary wars “of any kind”, wages, say, by China in alliance with India, Persia, Siam, etc., against the Great Powers.

To deny all possibility of national wars under imperialism is wrong in theory, obviously mistaken historically, and tantamount to European chauvinism in practice: we who belong to nations that oppress hundreds of millions in Europe, Africa, Asia, etc., are invited to tell the oppressed peoples that it is “impossible” for them to wage war against “our” nations!

Secondly, civil war is just as much a war as any other. He who accepts the class struggle cannot fail to accept civil wars, which in every class society are the natural, and under certain conditions inevitable, continuation, development and intensification of the class struggle. That has been confirmed by every great revolution. To repudiate civil war, or to forget about it, is to fall into extreme opportunism and renounce the socialist revolution....

Only after we have overthrown, finally vanquished and expropriated the bourgeoisie of the whole world, and not merely in one country, will wars become impossible. And from a scientific point of view it would be utterly wrong — and utterly unrevolutionary — for us to evade or gloss over the most important things: crushing the resistance of the bourgeoisie — the most difficult task, and one demanding the greatest amount of fighting, in the transition to socialism. The “social” parsons and opportunists are always ready to build dreams of future peaceful socialism. But the very thing that distinguishes them from revolutionary Social-Democrats is that they refuse to think about and reflect on the fierce class struggle and class wars needed to achieve that beautiful future.

Theoretically, it would be absolutely wrong to forget that every war is but the continuation of policy by other means. The present imperialist war is the continuation of the imperialist policies of two groups of Great Powers, and these policies were engendered and fostered by the sum total of the relationships of the imperialist era. But this very era must also necessarily engender and foster policies of struggle against national oppression and of proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie and, consequently, also the possibility and inevitability; first, of revolutionary national rebellions and wars; second, of proletarian wars and rebellions against the bourgeoisie; and, third, of a combination of both kinds of revolutionary war, etc.