“Otkrytoe pismo v redaktsiiu zhurnala ‘Kommunist’;” Nashe Slovo, No. 105, June 4, 1915, pp. 1-2.
You invite me to contribute to the periodical Kommunist which you are establishing. I regret very much that I have to decline your invitation; I regret so much more to have to do this, because I regard the theoretical formulation of the new problems relating to the war and the crisis of the International as extremely important and urgent; at the same time I am deeply convinced that we, Russian internationalists, possess a general theoretical and political basis which is entirely adequate for joint activity and especially for combating social patriotism in both the Russian labour movement and the International. In saying this I have no desire whatever to close my eyes to the serious differences which divide us. For instance, I cannot reconcile myself with the vagueness and evasiveness of your position on the question of mobilizing the proletariat under the slogan of struggle for peace, the slogan under which, as a matter of fact, the labouring masses are now recovering their political senses and the revolutionary elements of socialism are being united in all countries; the slogan under which an attempt is being made now to restore the international contacts among the socialist proletariat. Furthermore, under no condition can I agree with your opinion, which is emphasized by a resolution, that Russia’s defeat would be a “lesser evil.” This opinion represents a fundamental connivance with the political methodology of social patriotism, a connivance for which there is no reason or justification and which substitutes an orientation (extremely arbitrary under present conditions) along the line of a “lesser evil” for the revolutionary struggle against war and the conditions which generated this war. Furthermore, I cannot accept your organizational setting of the question of social patriotism; a setting which in my opinion is completely diffuse and shapeless and appears exact and definite only because it evades all practical issues which arise before the internationalists in their struggle against the social patriots and for influence over the labouring masses. However, these very serious differences, as well as other differences which I do not mention here, would by no means prevent me from collaborating with you in a general theoretical organ - on the contrary, I think that this organ, being a foremost organ along the united front of struggle against social patriotism, should be polemical as to questions concerning which the internationalists have no uniform opinion or over which they disagree. But such collaboration presupposes, from my point of view, a general interest on our part in actually rallying all internationalists, regardless of their group affiliation or of the tinge of their internationalism. It would seem that a policy of this kind precludes in advance every attempt to exploit the crisis in the labour movement for factional or group ends which do not derive from the requirements of this movement or from the need of exerting upon it the influence of revolutionary internationalism. Meanwhile your printed announcement concerning the publication of the periodical Kommunist is to me the saddest evidence of the fact that you subordinate your struggle against social patriotism to considerations and objectives, the responsibility for which I by no means have the right to take upon myself.
You declare that in launching a struggle against social patriotism you are not alone and you point to the periodicals Lichtstrahlen and Internationale in Germany, Comrades Nicod, Monatte, and Merrheim in France, the minority of the British Socialist party, the majority of the Independent Labour party in England, etc., as your allies; whereas, passing over to Russia, you refer only to the manifesto of the Central Committee and to the conduct of the five indicted deputies. Beyond these boundaries you discern only “an incipient opposition which expresses sympathy for internationalism and therefore merits a salute.” But both this list and this characterization constitute a decided distortion of the real state of affairs because of the limitations of the factional perspective. The declaration was signed and defended by the five indicted deputies together with the other social democratic deputies of the State Duma. In no way did the conduct of the five deputies differ in principle from the conduct of the other half of the Duma group, and it is clear that in their statements at the trial nobody can perceive a fundamental step beyond the general declaration of the Social Democratic group in the Duma. I agree, however, that this first declaration, being a case of truly political bravery, did not possess the necessary precision. But the responsibility for this - if responsibility is spoken of at all - devolves upon both halves of the Duma group. Meanwhile the last speeches of our deputies (the speeches of Chkheidze, Chkhenkeli, and Tuliakov) and their voting undoubtedly represent steps forward toward political precision and revolutionary irreconcilability. After Plekhanov’s articles and those of Nasha Zaria the voice of the Duma group sounded as a voice of powerful resistance to all attempts to introduce patriotic corruption into the ranks of the workers. A protest can and must be raised against the fact that the Organization Committee did not find it necessary and possible to fence itself off from its influential social patriots, who had addressed their declarations to Vandervelde and the Copenhagen Conference over the heads of the Organization Committee. A still more resolute protest can and must be raised against the fact that the Secretariat of the Organization Committee Abroad has taken it upon itself to rehabilitate the aforesaid social patriotic group before the International. But we should not close our eyes to the fact that the Duma group has excluded from its ranks a deputy who drew a practical conclusion from the position of Plekhanov and of Nasha Zaria (In January 1915 Deputy Mankov voted in favor of war credits contrary to the decision of the S.D. Duma group, for which action he was expelled from the group.) Along with all the revolutionary elements of the International, I am proud of the conduct of our deputies; I regard them at present as the most important channel of internationalist education of the proletariat of Russia and for that very reason consider it to be the duty of every revolutionary Social Democrat to lend them every support and strengthen their authority in the International. While you at best ignore them as if they did not exist in Russia’s political life; as if upon the arrest of the five deputies of your shading - I regard them as our deputies - no true and deserving representatives of the labouring class of Russia were left in the State Duma. While naming and saluting Nicod, Monatte, and the Independent British Socialists as your allies, you evade, you pass in silence, you ignore Chkheidze, Tuliakov, and their comrades. Since such action cannot be caused either by the need of political precision or by the desire to benefit internationalism, I cannot support those interests by which it was guided. It is not surprising that you include neither Golos nor Nashe Slovo in the list of your allies along with Lichtstrahlen, Nicod, Monatte, Merrheim, and the Independent British Socialists. The Sotsial-Demokrat, with which you declare complete solidarity, has already made note of the "bankruptcy” of Nashe Slovo. Within the limits of this letter I cannot go into a lengthy appraisal of considerations which permit you to say that our newspaper has “failed.” However, it will suffice to say that on questions which separate Nashe Slovo from your position, all the groups in the International which you have enumerated stand incomparably farther from you than we do. Hence one of the following two conclusions must be drawn: either the British Independent Socialists, Nicod, and Merrheim are your allies and so is Nashe Slovo (yet you pass over it in silence] for considerations which are not of a fundamental nature), or you have no allies at all in the International. For the very reason that I wholly agree with the position of Nashe Slovo I cannot give my name to an enterprise which appraises our paper as one which has scarcely begun “to express sympathy for internationalism” and which has already “failed.”
In concluding let me express my firm belief that close contact with the revolutionary elements of the International - and we are proceeding toward the creation of such contacts - will inspire you or even compel you to broaden your criteria and change many of your standards of value. Upon this new basis collaboration within the confines of general literary establishments as well as of general political organizations will be possible and productive.
With comradely greeting, N [L]. Trotsky