On the eve of the First World War, the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the Polish Socialist Party – Left, and the Bund produced the following statement upholding internationalist principles. Written very much in the language of the period, the proclamation opposed the war on all sides, advocated independent revolutionary action of the proletariat, and stood in solidarity with the movements in Russia and the rest of Europe.
To the proletariat of Poland!
Comrade workers! The bloody blaze of a European war gravely hangs upon the world. Little time has passed since the start of the Austro-Serbian war, and we are now witnessing the beginnings of the battle between Germany and Russia. Inevitably, with frightening certainty, we stand before a generalised bloodbath in Europe.
On the altar of war, the masses of the people will have to make countless sacrifices, millions of working people will be left at the mercy of hunger and misery; destruction threatens the legacy of the civilised world.
The criminal policies of the current governments mark the way of capital with blood and iron, seeking new grounds for exploitation through their greed. The selfish interests of the propertied classes, the predatory pursuit to spread the rule of capital onto new lands, leads to cruel struggles for the division of the spoils. The blood, shed by hundreds of thousands sons of the people, is to be melted down into gold for the oppressors.
The recent war between the Balkan states concealed in itself the outburst of a deadly conflict awaiting the world. During this time the frenzy of the arms race only sharpened the contradictions between states. Billions in expenses, spent on the army and the navy, at a time when workers had to fight years for every minor improvement, constituted the "armed peace". This "armed peace" is now broken. The flames of war take over.
It is not the defence of the interests of the people, it is not the struggle for freedom of the people or nations, nor racial antagonisms that are the cause for the outbreak of the war. The conflicting interests of the capitalists of European countries, the partitionist imperialist politics of the bourgeois governments – these are the destructive forces that push nations towards mutual self-destruction.
On guard for peace, on guard for the salvation of the cultural world from destruction, stands the international working class. The proletariat of the whole world understands that the ruination which looms over the current catastrophe of war will primarily concern its own ranks. Despair and misery will fall primarily on the families of the working people. The working class realises that the war breaks the mighty edifice of its organisation, the strongest weapon of the proletariat, that the storm of war will tear down its persistent and tireless work of building a better social order.
Down with the war - this is the cry that resonates from the lungs of millions of demonstrating workers of all countries and nationalities. Against the politics of war of all against all, the proletariat opposes its own international solidarity, based on a revolutionary spirit of brotherhood, on common efforts to abolish the current system of exploitation and oppression, for the introduction of a socialist system. The proletariat challenges their governments, their oppressors, as the dangerous wind of workers' revolution approaches, the powerful march of the revolutionary battalions of workers will spread to the trenches of the present capitalist system.
Workers! You make up one of the links in the great proletarian family. At this historical moment, we need to realise our revolutionary duty, so that we can emerge as one of the branches of an international revolutionary army.
The outbreak of war of the Tsarist regime against Germany and Austria pulls our country into the vortex of war. Already hundreds of thousands of working people have been separated from their workplaces, already many centres of work have gone quiet, and already the spectre of hunger stares down the eyes of the have-nots and the calamity of famine proclaims itself.
The proletariat does not have the power to prevent the outbreak of war. In the current states, the fate of war and peace, the lives of millions of people, depend on a handful of ruling class members. Major military powers strike at each other and the proletariat is unable to quell these clashes.
But the proletariat knows that its revolutionary stance must remain unchanged, that its revolutionary action must develop further, to intensify to the utmost.
The political demands of the proletariat in this period of changing military circumstances are independent of the military victories of this or that side. Its revolutionary revolt, the proletariat of our country has to align with the revolts in Russia and Europe, since they flow from the same revolutionary desire to overthrow the present rule and introduce people’s rule.
Fighting for national rights, the proletariat of Poland will put forward its demands based on the totality of class politics and, free from nationalism, these demands will support the revolutionary struggle against all collusions and diplomatic squabbles.
In the struggle between social forces that the war and the economic situation of the country will produce, the proletariat must oppose the bourgeois and landowning realm with its class consciousness. As an organised force, as the only combatant for freedom, it must stand on guard for the future and make its will the leading one in future historical events.
Comrade workers! Revolutionary politics, the revolutionary action of the proletariat, must manifest itself with all power and clarity.
The proletariat must still continue to be an independent force in the struggle against governments, against capital, against nationalism.
The proletariat must strive to ensure that its class interests are defended against all hostile forces, and must, for the successful realisation of its demands, seize power and take government into its own hands.
Comrade workers! Stand shoulder to shoulder. Let each proletarian join the ranks of the fighters.
May international socialism lead us to the struggle and to victory!
Down with the war!
Long live the brotherhood of the peoples!
Down with oppression and exploitation! Long live socialism!
Down with the Tsar! Long live the revolution!
National Committee of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania
Central Committee of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania
Central Committee of the Polish Socialist Party [Left]
Central Committee of the "Bund"
Warsaw, 2 August 1914.
The meeting which produced this proclamation was attended by the following – Władysław Kowalski-Grzech, Wacław Wróblewski and Czesława Jachimowicz-Grosserowa from the PPS-Left; Jakub Fenigstein-Dolecki and Karol Winawer from the SDKPiL “rozłamowcy” faction; Stanisław Bobiński from the SDKPiL “zarządowcy” faction; unknown representative(s) of the Bund. 20 000 copies were circulated in the main industrial centres of Poland.
Translated from: ‘Odezwa SDKPiL, PPS-Lewicy i Bundu z 2 VIII 1914 "Do proletariatu Polski"’, in: Feliks Tych (ed.), Polskie programy socjalistyczne 1878-1918, pp. 491-495.