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German and Non-German Chauvinism[1]

V. I. Lenin

The German Chauvinists, as we know, have succeeded in imposing their influence upon the overwhelming majority of leaders of the so-called Social-Democratic-now, in fact, National-Liberal Party. We shall see presently how far this applies to the non-German chauvinists like Postresov, Levitsky and Co. At the moment we must deal with the German chauvinists, among whom, in fairness, Kautsky must also be included, notwithstanding the fact that P. B. Axelrod, in his German pamphlet, for example, very assiduously and very incorrectly defends Kautsky and calls him an "internationalist".

One of the characteristics of German chauvinism is that "socialists"-socialists in quotation marks-talk about the independence of nations, except those which are oppressed by their own nation. It does not make much difference whether so directly, or whether they defend, justify and shield those who say it.

The German chauvinists (who include Parvus, the publisher of a little magazine, called Die Glocke, among whose contributors are Lensch, Haenisch, Grunwald all the rest of the crew of "socialist" lackeys of German imperialist bourgeoisie) speak at great length and very eagerly, for example, about the independence for the peoples oppressed by Britain. It is not only the social-chauvinists of Germany, i.e., socialists in words, chauvinists in deeds, but the whole bourgeoisie press of Germany that is trumpeting with all its might about the shameful, brutal and reactionary, etc., fashion in which Britain rules her colonies. The German papers write about the liberation movement in India with great gusto, malicious glee, delight and rapture.

It is easy to see why the German Bourgeoisie is full of malicious joy: it hope to improve its military position by fanning the discontent in the anti-British movement India. These hopes are silly, of course, because it is simply impossible seriously to entertaining the influencing the life of a multi-million people, and a very peculiar people at that, from outside, from afar in a foreign language, particular when the influence is not systematic, but casual, only for the duration of the war. Rather than the desire to influence India the efforts of the German imperialist bourgeoisie are more of an attempt at self-consolation, more of a desire to fool the German people and to divert their attention from home to foreign parts.

But this general, theoretical question automatically arises: What is at the root of the falsehood of such arguments; how can the hypocrisy of the German imperialists be exposed without unerring certainty? The correct theoretical answer pointing to the root of falsehood always serves as a means of exposing the hypocrites who, for reasons all too obvious, are inclined to cover up their falsehood, to obscure it, to clothe it in flowery phrases, all sorts of phrases, phrases about everything in the world, even about internationalism. Even the Lensches, Südekums and Scheidmanns, all these agents of the German bourgeoisie, who, unfortunately, belong to the so-called "Social-Democratic" Party of Germany, insist that they are internationalists. Men must not be judged by their words, however, but by their deeds. This is a home truth. Will anyone in Russia judge Potresov, Levitsky, Bulkin and Co. by their words? Of course, not.

The falsehood of the German chauvinists has its roots in their shouting their sympathy for the independence of the peoples oppressed by Britain, their enemy in the war, and modestly, sometimes much too modestly, keeping silent about the independence of the peoples oppressed by their own nation.

Take the Danes. When Prussia annexed Schleswig she also seized, as all "Great" Powers are wont to do, a part inhabited by Danes. The violation of the rights of this population was so patent that that when Austria ceded to Prussia her "rights" to Schleswig under the Peace of Prague, August 23-30, 1866, the treaty stipulated that the population of the northern part of the province was to be asked in a plebiscite whether they wished to join Denmark are were to be joined to Denmark in the event of a vote to that effect. This condition, however, was not fulfilled by Prussia who, in 1871, had this "unpleasant" clause deleted.

Frederick Engels, who was never indifferent to the chauvinism of Great-Power nations, specifically pointed to this violation of the rights of a small nation by Prussia.[2] But the present-day social-chauvinists, while recognising the right of self-determination of nations in words, as Kautsky also does, have never carried on any consistently-democratic and resolutely democratic agitation in favour of liberating an oppressed nation when that oppression was exercised nation was "their own" nation. That is the whole secret, the kernel, of the question of chauvinism and of its exposure.

A once popular pun in Russia was that Russkoye Znamya[3] frequently behaved like Prusskoye Znamya.[4] But this does not apply to Russkoye Znamya alone; for Potresov, Levitsky and Co. reason in the Russian in the very same way as Lensch, Kautsky and Co. reason in Germany. Take a look in the liquidationist Rabocheye Utro, for example, and you will find similar "Prussian", or rather, international-chauvinist arguments and methods of reasoning. Chauvinism remains true to itself, whatever its national brand, whatever its pacifist cover-up phrase.


[1] This article first appeared in Voprosy Strakhovania (Insurance Questions), 1916, No. 5, that was intermittently published in Petersburg from October 1913 to March 1918. During the First World War, it was the only legal Bolshevik periodical in Petersburg. It fought not only for workers' insurance, but also for full-blooded Bolshevik slogans: the eight-hour day, confiscation of big landed estates and a democratic republic.

[2] Engels, "The Role of Violence in History", in Die Neue Zeit (1895/96, Vol. 1) under the title, "Gewalt und Oekonomie bei der Herstellung des neuen Deutschen Reiches" ("Violence and the Economy in the Establishment of the New German Empire").

[3] Russkoye Znamya (Russian Banner)—a reactionary newspaper, organ of the Union of the Russian People, published in Petersburg from November 1905 to 1917.

[4] Russkoye Znamya–Russian Banner; Prusskoye Znamya–Prussian Banner.–Ed.

Published: Published on May 31, 1916 in Voprosy Strakhovania No. 5 (54).
Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers [1974], Moscow, Volume 22, pages 182-184.

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