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In Switzerland (August 31, 1912)

V. I. Lenin

In Pravda No. 63, on July 12,[1] we told the reader about the general strike in Zurich on June 29 (July 12, new style). It may be recalled that the strike was decided in defiance of the leaders of political organisations. The meeting of 425 representatives of all the workers' organisations of Zurich, which declared for the strike, greeted the statement of the printers, who were against the strike, with shouts of "Shame!"

By now the press has published data exposing that opportunism.

It appears that the political leaders of the Swiss workers in their opportunism have gone so far as direct betrayal of the Party. It is this scathing but justified phrase that the best organs of the Swiss and German working-class press use in describing the conduct of the Social-Democratic members of the Zurich Magistracy (Town Council). The Zurich Town Council, defending the capitalists, prohibited strike picketing (and then the workers decided to protest by a one-day general strike).

There are nine members on the Zurich Magistracy, including four Social-Democrats—Erismann, Pflüger, Fogelsanger and Klöti.

And now it has become known that the prohibition of picketing was decided on by the Town Council unanimously, that is to say, Erismann and his three Social-Democratic colleagues voted for it!!! The Zurich Cantonal Government had insisted that the Town Council should prohibit all picketing, but the four sapient minnows,[2] that is, Zurich Social-Democrats, made a "compromise" proposal to prohibit picketing only in the area of the two mechanical shops where work had been stopped.

Of course, it was just this partial prohibition of picketing that the bourgeoisie was demanding, and the "Social-Democrats'" (?!) proposal was adopted by the bourgeois majority of the Town Council!

What is more, the Zurich Town Council recently published an account of the events occasioned by the general strike. The capitalists declared a three-day lock-out by way of revenge. The Zurich Town Council decided unanimously, with all its four Social-Democratic members participating, that it was necessary to call in troops to reinforce the police in maintaining public order.

Nor is that all. The bourgeois Town Council of Zurich furiously attacked, by a series of repressive measures, those manual and office workers in the town's establishments who had joined in the strike. It sacked 13 workers and imposed disciplinary punishments (demotion, pay cuts) on another 116. These decisions of the Town Council were likewise adopted unanimously, with Erismann and his two colleagues participating.

The conduct of Erismann and Co. can only be described as betrayal of the Party.

It is not surprising that the anarcho-syndicalists enjoy a certain success in Switzerland, since it falls to them to criticise before the workers a socialist party which tolerates such opportunist traitors in its ranks. The reason why the treachery of Erismann and Co. is of major international significance is that it shows us clearly from what quarter and in what manner the working-class movement is threatened with internal corruption.

Erismann and Co. are by no means common deserters to the enemy camp; they are simply peaceful petty bourgeois, opportunists who are accustomed to parliamentary "vermicelli" and who have succumbed to constitutional democratic illusions. The moment the class struggle took a sharp turn, all illusions about constitutional "order" and a "democratic republic" were dispelled at once, and our philistines holding the office of Social-Democratic members of the Town Council lost their heads and slid into the marsh.

Class-conscious workers can see from this sad example the consequences which the spread of opportunism in a workers' party is bound to have.


[1] See pp. 160–62 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] The sapient minnow personifies the craven philistine in M. Saltykov-Shchedrin's fairy-tale of that name.

Published: Pravda No. 105, August 31, 1912.
Signed: P. P..
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 307-309.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan

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