Bourgeois Public Opinion, Social Democracy and Communism

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written March 1922


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Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 25, 31 March 1922, pp. 185–186
An alternative version/translation of this text can be found in the book Between Red and White.

Taken from a book entitled Imperialism and Revolution[1], soon to be published in Russian – The Editor

*

Upon what grounds do the gentlemen of the Second International base their demand that we, the Soviet Federation, the Communist Party, get out of Georgia? Upon what principle? Granted for the sake of argument, that Georgia was actually occupied by force, and that this occupation is the expression of Soviet imperialism! Granted! But by what right does Henderson, member of the Second International, and former minister of Great Britain, demand from us, from the organized proletarian state, from the Third International, from revolutionary Communism, that we evacuate Georgia? Is it because Mr. Henderson has beautiful eyes? Churchill at least supports his claim with naval guns and the blockade. But how about Mr. Henderson? On what does he base his claims? Upon the Holy Scriptures perhaps, upon his party program, or upon his works? But no, the Holy Scriptures are a naive myth, Henderson’s program is a sophisticated myth, and as to his works, they speak loudly against him.

Not so very, very long ago Mr. Henderson was minister of a democracy, in fact, of his own democracy of Great Britain. How is it then that he did not succeed, nay, not even simulate an attempt to succeed, in bringing his Democracy [for whose defense no sacrifice was too great for him, not even that of relieving the Liberal-Conservative, Lloyd George, of his portfolio] to a realization of her own and Henderson’s (not ours) principles?

Why did he not demand the evacuation of India and Egypt? Why did he not support the Irish demand for complete liberation from the yoke of Great Britain? We know that like Macdonald, Henderson made use of those days in protesting with melancholy resolution against the excesses of British imperialism. But these flimsy and powerless protests, devoid of all will, have never really threatened the actual interests of English capitalistic colonial rule, nor do these protests threaten them now. At no time did they lead to manly and decisive deeds. No, these protests only serve as a sort of confessional that eases the consciences of “Socialist” gentlemen among ruling nations, and also as a safety-valve for English proletarian discontent. They are not intended however to break the chains of the colonial slaves. For the Hendersons, English colonial rule is not a political question, but an accomplished historical fact. They have never proclaimed that Indians, Egyptians and other enslaved peoples have the right, nay, the duty imposed upon them by considerations of their own future to take up arms and overthrow English tyranny. They have never proclaimed their Socialist duty to make use of the first opportunity to offer aid in arms to the colonies in their struggle for freedom. This is a question of the most elementary arch-democratic duty, in fact in two senses; firstly, that the colonial slaves form an undisputed overwhelming majority as compared with the small ruling British minority; secondly this minority (and chiefly its official “Socialists”) itself boasts of democratic principles being its guiding spirit. Look at India! Why does not Henderson encourage and promote a revolutionary movement to effect the evacuation of India by British troops? We can think of no more shameless, more appalling and flagrant breach of democratic principles than the rule of the British capitalistic hydra over the gigantic body of this unfortunate enslaved people. Henderson, Macdonald and Company should unceasingly be sounding the alarm, they should indefatigably, day and night, be issuing demands and appeals, be making disclosures, and preaching revolt to the Indians and to all the English workers against this inhuman throttling of democratic principles. But they are dumb, what is still worse, they sign, from time to time, empty and barren resolutions that are as monotonous as English sermons. These resolutions only serve to show that Messrs. Henderson, Macdonald and Company, who completely accept British colonial rule as such, would indeed prefer to have roses without thorns, but that they are far from willing to prick their hands (the hands of loyal British “Socialists”) with these thorns. Henderson makes himself comfortable in the easy-chair of a royal minister, as soon as it is necessary to do so for so-called “democratic”, patriotic reasons. In has abandonment he does not at all seem to be aware of the fact that this easy-chair rests on the most anti-democratic pedestal in the world, upon the rule of a few capitalist cliques over many millions of the British Nation and over hundreds of millions of colored Asiatic and African slaves. But that is not all! For the purpose of defending this appalling rule that is masqueraded in so many democratic costumes, Henderson allied himself with the open military and police dictatorship of Russian Czarism. By being a minister during the war, Henderson was to all intents and purposes a Czarist minister. Henderson did not then think of asking the Czar, his protector and ally, to withdraw the Russian troops from Georgia and from the other oppressed regions. At that time he would have declared that to put such demands was to aid German militarism. Every revolutionary movement in Georgia directed against the Czar, would have been seen by him in the light of an Irish uprising, that is, as the handiwork of German bribery and German intrigue. One is actually intoxicated by these crass and appalling contradictions and conflicts that mark the policy of Henderson. But they are only natural. For, do not Messrs. Henderson & Co. accept the rule of Great Britain, i.e., of its governing cliques, over one-fourth of humanity as an accomplished historical fact and not as a political question? These democrats with their Fabian and sterile Socialism were always the willing slaves of bourgeois public opinion. They are hypersaturated with the anti-democratic exploiting and parasitic spirit of the plantation owners as against the colored races, who do not read Shakespeare and wear no stiff collars.

And in spite of the fact they have Czarist Georgia, Ireland, Egypt and India on the debit side of their account, they have the cheek to demand of us, their enemies, not their allies, the evacuation of Soviet Georgia. Peculiar as it may seem, this idiotic and absolutely unfounded demand is at the same time the involuntary tribute which the petty-bourgeois democracy pays to the proletarian dictatorship. Either unconsciously or half- consciously Henderson and Company say:

“Of course the bourgeois democracy whose ministers we become as soon as she calls us, cannot be expected to respect the democratic principle of self-determination. Of course we, the Socialists of this democracy, and respectable citizens of this ruling nation who disguise her slave owning role with democratic fictions, cannot be expected to aid the colonial slaves by word and deed in rising against their oppressors. But you, the revolution embodied in a state, you are bound to do that which we cannot do because of our cowardice, our mendacity and hypocrisy.”

In other words, although they formally recognize democracy as the highest ideal, they at the same time voluntary declare that those high demands which, were they put to the bourgeois democracy whose ministers or loyal parliamentarians they are, would seem ridiculous and idiotic, could and should be put to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

As a result of such involuntary tribute, they demand of the proletarian dictatorship an act which would fully correspond to their own political blunders. They demand that the dictatorship maintain and defend itself not by the application of its own methods, but with the aid of those methods which they claim to be obligatory for a democracy, but which they themselves, however, never apply We have already said in the first manifesto of the Communist International:

“Our enemies demand that we defend our lives according to the conventional rules and regulations of the French wrestling game, i.e., according to those rules that are made by our enemies, but which are never respected by them in the fight.”

To get a better and more concrete idea of the policy pursued by the “Western democracies” towards the backward nations, and of the part played by the gentlemen of the Second International in this diplomatic game, one only has to read the memoirs of the former French ambassador at the Czar’s court, M. Paléologue. Were this book not in existence, we should invent it. Monsieur Paléologue himself should have been invested, had his memoirs not appeared in time. Paléologue is the most accomplished representative of the Third Republic, not only because of his Byzantine name (the word Paléologue is derived from the Greek), but also because of his thoroughbred Byzantine soul In November 1914, in the first war period, a pious manuscript sermon by Rasputin was handed over to Monsieur Paléologue by one of the ladies of the court at a wink from above (most probably the Czarina). Monsieur Paléologue, representative of the republic, answered to the strict sermon of Rasputin with the following letter:

“The fine-feeling French nation very well perceives that the Russian people embodies its love of the fatherland in the person of the Czar.”

Of course, Paléologue intended this letter to be read by the Czar. This letter by a republican diplomat was written ten years after the 9th of January 1905 and 122 years after the execution of Louis Capet by the French Republic. For was it not a question of a secret diplomatic scandal? What does seem strange, however, is that upon his own initiative he tells us in this disgraceful work of the democracy which he so basely represented at Rasputin’s court. And all this does not prevent him of being a political leader of this “democratic republic” and filling an important post even to this day. We would indeed wonder at this, were we not well acquainted with the laws of progression of this bourgeois democracy which rose up to Robespierre, only to end with a Paléologue.

Behind the frankness of the former ambassador, there most probably lies the most cunning Byzantine cleverness. He tells us so much only not to have to tell us everything. Perhaps he only attempts to deaden our suspecting curiosity. Who knows but what demands the perverse almighty Rasputin put to him. Who can tell through what complicated means Monsieur Paléologue had to guard the interests of France and of civilization. At any rate we know definitely that Monsieur Paléologue at present belongs to that French political group, which is ready to swear itself black and blue that the Soviet government is not the true expression of the will of the Russian people. It is that group which never tires of repeating that the resumption of relations with Russia will be possible only after Russia will have been handed over through “well-functioning democratic institutions” to the Russian Paléologues.

The ambassador of the French democracy was not alone at the court. With him was Sir Buchanan. Paléologue tells us that on the 14th of November 1914, Buchanan declared to Sazonoff:

“From now on the government of this British Majesty agrees that the question of the Straits and that of Constantinople should be solved in full accord with Russia’s wishes I am happy to be able to tell you so.”

Four days later Buchanan said to Sazonoff:

“The British government is compelled to annex Egypt. It hopes that the Russian government has no objection to offer.”

Sazonoff was not tardy in voicing his approval. Three days later Paléologue “reminded” Nicholas II that “France was interested in Syria and Palestine where she had a vast treasure of historical reminiscences and of moral and material interests.” He, Monsieur Paléologue, therefore hoped that His Majesty would sanction the measures taken by the government of the democratic French Republic for the maintenance of its prestige.

Oui certes” (of course), answered His Majesty.

On the 12th of March 1915 Buchanan finally demanded that Russia cede the neutral, i.e., the yet undivided part of Persia to England, in return for Constantinople and the Straits.

Sazonoff answered, “C’est entendu” (Agreed).

In this wise, two democracies together with Czarism which at that time reflected light from the overflowing splendor of the Allied democratic torch, sealed the destinies of Constantinople Syria, Palestine. Egypt and Persia. Mr. Buchanan was no better nor worse a representative of the democracy of Great Britain than was Monsieur Paléologue of the French democracy. Buchanan retained his post after the overthrow of Nicolas II, Henderson, Minister to His Majesty and British Socialist came to Petrograd during the Kerensky Regime, in order if necessary to displace Buchanan, whom someone in the English government though unfit to deal with Kerensky after his affairs with Rasputin. But Henderson examined the Petrograd atmosphere and was convinced that Buchanan was after all the right person to act as the representative of the democracy of Great Britain. Buchanan’s opinion of Henderson was undoubtedly equally favorable.

At least Paléologue held “his Socialists” as an example before the conspiring Czarist standard-bearers. Referring to the court campaign launched by Count Witte for an early peace M. Paléologue told Sazonoff: “Just look at our Socialists, they are perfect” (page 189).

Paléologues estimate of Messrs. Renaudel, Longuet, Vandervelde and all their accomplices makes a certain impression even now, after everything that we went through. Paléologue received his orders from Rasputin and carried them out with awe. He, on the other hand, patronizingly passed jugment upon French Socialists to a Czarist minister, and found them to be without blemish These words, “voyez nos socialistes – ils son impeccables”, should be written as a motto upon the banner of the Second International. The words sounding the liberation of the proletarians of all countries, which still decorate their banners, are as ill-fitting to Henderson as the Phrygian cap to Monsieur Paléologue.

  1. The actual title in English is Between Red and White.