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On the Defence of the Fatherland Issue

V. I. Lenin

The bourgeoisie and its supporters in the labour movement, the Grütlians, usually pose the question thus:
    Either we recognise in principle our duty to defend the fatherland, or we leave our country defenceless.

    That presentation is fundamentally wrong.

This is how the question stands in reality:
    Either we allow ourselves to be killed in the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie, or we systematically prepare the majority of the exploited, and ourselves, for seizure—at the price of less sacrifice—of the banks and expropriation of the bourgeoisie in order to put an end to the high cost of living and war.

* * *

The first presentation of the question is thoroughly bourgeois, not socialist. It disregards the fact that we are living in the imperialist era, that the present war is an imperialist war, that in this war Switzerland will under no circumstances be ranged against imperialism, but on the side of one or the other imperialist coalition, i. e., will in fact become an accomplice of one or another group of the big robber powers, that the Swiss bourgeoisie has long been tied to imperialist interests by thousands of threads. It is of ho concern whether this is implemented by a system of inter-relationships and "mutual participation" of the big banks through export of capital, or through the tourist trade, which thrives on the patronage of foreign millionaires, or through unscrupulous exploitation of disfranchised foreign workers, etc.

In short, all the fundamental tenets of socialism, all the socialist ideas, have been forgotten. The predatory nature of the imperialist war is being embellished. One's "own" bourgeoisie is being depicted as an innocent lamb and the case-hardened bank directors of present-day Switzerland as heroic William Tells, and, furthermore, the secret agreements between Swiss and foreign banks and between Swiss and foreign diplomats are overlooked. And this incredible hotchpotch of bourgeois lies is covered up by a fine-sounding and "popular" phrase meant to deceive the people: "defence of the fatherland!"

Published: First published in Pravda No. 174, August 1, 1929.
Written in German in December 1916. Translated from the German. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 161-162.
Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and and Others

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