4) Speech on the Proposal to Call an International Socialist Conference May 8 (April 25)
I cannot agree with Comrade Nogin. We have here what I believe to be a fact of paramount political importance, and we are in duty bound to launch a vigorous campaign against the Russian and Anglo-French chauvinists who have turned down Borgbjerg’s invitation to attend the conference. We must not forget the real issue, the motives underlying this whole affair. I am going to read to you Borgbjerg’s proposal exactly as reported by Rabochaya Gazeta. I shall show you that behind this comedy of a so-called socialist congress we shall find the very real political manoeuvres of German imperialism. The German capitalists, through the medium of the German social-chauvinists, are inviting the social-chauvinists of all countries to the conference. That is why we must launch a big campaign.
Why do they do it through the socialists? Because they want to fool the working masses. These diplomats are subtle men; to say this thing openly would not do, so they send a Danish Plekhanov to do it for them. We have seen German social-chauvinists abroad hundreds of times; they must be exposed.
(Reads an excerpt from “Rabochaya Gazeta” No. 39, for May 8 (April 25), 1917.)
“On behalf of the joint committee of the three Scandinavian labour parties (the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish), Borgbjerg, editor of Social-Demokraten, the Central Organ of the Danish Social-Democratic Party, has passed on to the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies a message inviting all the socialist parties in Russia to attend an international socialist conference. Owing to Denmark’s proximity to Germany, Borgbjerg was able to communicate with the German Social-Democrats, mainly with the ’majority’ faction, and the committee learned from him the peace terms which the official Social-Democratic Party of Germany would consider acceptable, and which its representatives would propose to the conference.
“These terms are:
“First of all they subscribe to the principles laid down by the Scandinavian and Dutch socialists at the 1915 conference, namely, the self-determination of nations, an obligatory international court of arbitration, and the demand for gradual disarmament. To this they add that the German Social-Democrats will urge that:
“1. All territories seized by Germany and her allies be restored;
“2. Russian Poland be granted full freedom to declare its independence or to remain a part of Russia;
“3. Belgium be restored as a fully independent state;
“4. Similarly, Serbia, Montenegro and Rumania be restored to the status of independent states;
“5. Bulgaria be given the Bulgarian districts of Macedonia, and Serbia be given access to the Adriatic.
“As regards Alsace-Lorraine, a peaceful agreement could be envisaged to rectify Lorraine’s frontiers; as far as the Poles of Poznan are concerned, the Germans will insist on their obtaining autonomy of national culture.”
There is not a shadow of doubt that this proposal comes from the German Government, who does not act directly, but resorts to the services of the Danish Plekhanovs, since German agents are obviously no good for this purpose. That is what social-chauvinists are for—to carry out such commissions. Our job is, on behalf of the seventy thousand workers of the proletarian party represented at this conference, to show them up to the whole world and reveal the motives they are trying to conceal. We must publish a detailed resolution, have it translated into foreign languages, and thus give these gentlemen the rebuff they deserve for daring to approach a socialist party. (Reads the draft resolution.)
The socialist papers this morning are silent. They know what they are about. They know that silence is golden. Only Rabochaya Gazeta publishes an article, which manages to say nothing in many words.
The Russian Government, more than anyone else, May rest assured that we are dealing here with an agent of the German Government.
What with all this shouting about the liberation of Alsace-Lorraine, we should remind those gentlemen that the whole question is simply one of lucre, since there is immense wealth in Alsace-Lorraine, and the German capitalists are fighting the French capitalists for the division of the booty. It is good for them to have the Plekhanovs say that the liberation of Alsace-Lorraine is a sacred cause. When the German social-chauvinists therefore talk about a peaceful rectification of the frontiers of Alsace-Lorraine, they mean a peaceful division of the spoil between the French and the German imperialists.
One thing more I must add. I forgot to mention that the German representatives of the “Centre”—Kautsky, Haase, and Ledebour—have agreed to this conference. This is a most shameful thing. The British and French socialists have refused to attend the conference. This shows that the Anglo-French chauvinists, who call themselves socialists, are really agents of the bourgeoisie, because they are instrumental in continuing the imperialist war despite the tremendous efforts made by the German socialist majority through Borgbjerg; for, without a doubt, the German Government is saying through Borgbjerg: the situation is such that I am forced to return your booty to you (the German colonies in Africa). This is confirmed by the fact that the situation in Germany is desperate; the country is on the brink of ruin; to carry on the war now is a hopeless task. That is why they say they are ready to give up almost all the booty, for they still hope to be able to carve something out for themselves. The diplomats communicate freely with each other, and the bourgeois papers, when writing of foreign affairs, fool the people with phrase-mongering.
There is no doubt that when the British and French social-chauvinists said they were not going to the conference, they already knew all about it. They must have gone to their Foreign Offices where they were told: Such and such is the state of affairs, we don’t want you to go there. That, I am sure, is how matters stood.
If the Russian soldiers receive this resolution—and that, I think, should be done in the name of the seventy thousand members of our Party—they will really begin to see through the whole shady affair which has been concealed from them. They will see then that Germany is unable to carry on her war of conquest, and that the Allies only aim at utterly crushing and robbing Germany. It cannot be denied that Borgbjerg is an agent of the German Government.
This, comrades, is the reason why I think we must expose this socialist congress comedy. All these congresses are nothing but comedies designed to cover up the deals made by the diplomats behind the backs of the masses. Once and for all we must tell the truth for all the soldiers at the front and all the workers of the world to hear. Our campaign with regard to such proposals will serve, on the one hand, to explain our proletarian policy, and, on the other, it will be mass action on a scale never heard of before. I ask you, therefore, to adopt this declaration, forward it to the Executive Committee, translate it into foreign languages, and publish it in tomorrow’s Pravda.
|A brief report published May 9 (April 26), 1917 in Pravda No. 41||Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes|
|First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2|
 Introduction: --> The question of calling an international conference of socialists of the belligerent and neutral countries was repeatedly discussed in the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet in April 1917, the Executive Committee offering to take upon itself the initiative in convening such a conference. During the latter half of April the Danish Social-Democrat Borgbjerg, who was associated with the German social-chauvinists, arrived in Petrograd, and, on behalf of the joint committee of the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish labour parties (the social-patriot majorities of these parties), invited the socialist parties of Russia to attend a conference on the question of concluding peace, due to be held in Stockholm in May 1917.
On April 23 (May 6) Borgbjerg made a report to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet in which he frankly declared that the German Government would “agree” to the peace terms which the German Social-Democrats would propose at the conference. On April 25 (May 8) the Executive Committee heard the declarations of the Party groups on this question. The Bolsheviks announced the “Resolution on Borgbjerg’s Proposal” adopted that day by the April Conference. They were supported by the representatives of the Polish and Leftish Social-Democrats. Lenin considered participation in this conference a complete betrayal of internationalism.
The Seventh Conference --> The April Conference was emphatically opposed to participation, and denounced Borgbjerg as an agent of German imperialism. The Trudoviks, Bundists and Mensheviks were in favour of attending the conference. A Menshevik resolution was adopted in which the Executive Committee announced that it took upon itself the initiative in calling the conference and was setting up a special committee for that purpose. The plenary meeting of the Soviet endorsed this decision.
The majority of the British, French and Belgian socialists refused to take part in the conference, since the British and French governments were out for complete victory over Germany. The Centrists agreed to attend: they were the Longuet group in France and the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany headed by Kautsky, Haase and Ledebour.
The Spartacus group affiliated to the Independents refused to attend the conference with the social-imperialists. A declaration to this effect in his own name and on behalf of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who were in prison, was made by Franz Mehring.
--> The Stockholm conference did not take place, since some of the delegates did not receive passports from their governments, and others refused to sit with the representatives of the enemy countries.