Notes of a Publicist (1920)

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I[edit source]

Citizen Jean Longuet has sent me a letter consisting mainly of the same complaints as those contained in his article, “How Are the Russians Deceived?” (Populaire,” January 10, 1920.) Longuet has also sent me this issue of his newspaper together with a leaflet of the Committee for the Reconstruction of the International (ComitĂ© pour la reconstruction de I’Internationale)[1]. The leaflet contains two draft resolutions for the forthcoming congress of the French Socialist Party[2] in Strasbourg. It is signed on behalf of the Committee for the Reconstruction of the International by 24 persons: AmĂ©dĂ©e Dunois, Citizeness Fanny Clar, Caussy, Maurice DelĂ©pino, Paul Faure, Ludovic-Oscar Frossard, Eugene Frot, Henri Gourdeaux, Citizeness Leyciagnre, AndrĂ© Le Troquer, Paul Louis, Jean Longuet, Maurice Maurin, BarthĂ©lemy MayĂ©ras, Joan Mouret, Georges Mauranges, Palicot, PĂ©cher, Citizeness Marianne Rauze, Daniel Renault, Servantier, Sixte Quenin, Tommasi, Raoul Verfeuil.

It seems to me superfluous to reply to Jean Longuet’s complaints and attacks: adequate replies have been given in F. Loriot’s article in Vie Ouvriùre[3] of January 16, 1920, entitled “Gently, Longuet!” (”Tout doux, Longuet!”), and in Trotsky’s article in the Communist International[4] No. 7-8, entitled “Jean Longuet”. Very little remains to be added; perhaps only that it would be a good thing to collect material for a history of the failure of the strike of July 21, 1919.[5] But I cannot do this from Moscow. All I have seen is a quotation from Avanti![6] published in an Austrian Communist paper, exposing the despicable role played in this affair by one of the most despicable of the social-traitors (or anarcho-traitors?), the former syndicalist and anti-parliamentary windbag, Jouhaux. Why should not Longuet give somebody the job, which can be easily done in Paris, of collecting all the documents, all the comments and articles in the European Communist papers, and all the special interviews with the leaders and participants con-cerned, on the failure of the strike of July 21, 1919? We would be delighted to publish such a work. The “socialist education” about which the “Centrists” of the whole world (the Independents in Germany, the Longuetists in France, the I.L.P.[7] in Britain, etc.) talk so often and so readily must be understood to mean the firm exposure of the mistakes of the leaders and the mistakes of the movement and not the pedantic and doctrinaire repetition of general socialist phrases, which everybody is tired of hearing and which, since 1914-18, nobody trusts.

An example of this—all the leaders and all the promi-nent members of the socialist parties, the trade unions and the workers’ co-operative societies who advocated the “defence of the fatherland” in the war of 1914-18, acted as traitors to socialism. The real work of “socialist education” implies the persistent exposure of their mistake, the syste-matic explanation that this war was, in respect of both sides, a war between bandits for the division of the spoils, and that a repetition of such a war is inevitable unless the prole-tariat overthrows the bourgeoisie by revolutionary means.

The resolutions I have referred to speak aboutsuchwork of education, but what is actually being done is a work of socialist corruption, for treason, treachery, routine, inertia, careerism, philistinism and mistakes are hushed up, whereas real education consists in overcoming and removing them.

II[edit source]

Neither of the resolutions of the Longuetists is of any use—although, incidentally, they are very useful in one particular sphere, that of showing what, at the present mo-ment, is perhaps the most dangerous evil for the working-class movement in the West. The evil is this: the old leaders, observing what an irresistible attraction Bolshevism and Soviet government have for the masses, are seeking (and often finding!) a way of escape in the verbal recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat and Soviet government, although they actually either remain enemies of the dicta-torship of the proletariat, or are unable or unwilling to understand its significance and to carry it into effect.

The fall of the first Soviet Republic in Hungary (the first, which fell, will be followed by a second, which will be victorious) shows clearly how vast, how immense is the danger of this evil. A number of articles in the Vienna Rote Fahne[8], the Central Organ of the Austrian Communist Party, have revealed one of the chief reasons for its fall, namely, the treachery of the “socialists”, who went over to Bela Kun[9] verbally and proclaimed themselves Communists, but who actually did not pursue a policy consonant with the dictatorship of the proletariat; they vacillated, played the coward, made advances to the bourgeoisie, and in part directly sabotaged and betrayed the proletarian revo-lution. Naturally, the powerful brigands of imperialism (i.e., the bourgeois governments of Britain, France, etc.) that surrounded the Hungarian Soviet Republic made good use of these vacillations within the Hungarian Soviet government and used the Rumanian butchers to crush it.

There can be no doubt that some of the Hungarian socialists went over to Bela Kun sincerely, and sincerely proclaimed themselves Communists. But that changes nothing essen-tial: a man who “sincerely” proclaims himself a Communist, but who in practice vacillates and plays the coward instead of pursuing a ruthlessly firm, unswervingly determined and supremely courageous and heroic policy (and only such a policy is consonant with recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat) —such a man, in his weakness of character, vacillations and irresolution, is just as much guilty of treachery as a direct traitor. As far as the individual is concerned, there is a very great difference between a man whose weakness of character makes him a traitor and one who is a deliberate, calculating traitor; but in politics there is no such difference, because politics involves the actual fate of millions of people, and it makes, no difference whether the millions of workers and poor peasants are betrayed by those who are trailers from weakness of character or by those whose treachery pursues selfish aims.

We cannot yet say which of the Longuetists who signed the resolutions we are discussing will prove to belong to the first category, which to the second and which to some third, and it would be idle to speculate on it. The important thing is that these Longuetists, as a political trend, are now pursuing exactly the same policy as the Hungarian “social-ists” and “Social-Democrats” who brought about the fall of the Soviet government in Hungary. It is precisely this policy that the Longuetists are pursuing, for verbally they proclaim themselves supporters of the dictatorship of the proletariat and Soviet government, but actually they con-tinue to behave in the old way and to defend in their resolu-tions and to carry out in practice the old policy of petty concessions to social-chauvinism, opportunism and bour-geois democracy, the policy of vacillation, irresolution, evasiveness, subterfuge, suppression of facts, and the like. In their totality, these petty concessions, this vacillation, irresolution, evasiveness, subterfuge and suppression of facts inevitably constitute a betrayal of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Dictatorship is a big, harsh and bloody word, one which expresses a relentless life-and-death struggle between two classes, two worlds, two historical epochs.

Such words must not be uttered frivolously.

To place the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat on the order of the day, and at the same time to “fear to offend” men like Albert Thomas, the Brackes, Sembats and the other champions of the vilest French so-cial-chauvinism, the heroes of the traitor newspapers l’HumanitĂ©, La Bataille[10] and the like, is to betray the working class—be it from lack of thought, lack of understanding, weakness of character, or some other cause, it is nevertheless betrayal of the working class.

It was the divergence between word and deed that caused the collapse of the Second International. The Third International is not yet a year old, but it is already becoming fashionable and is a lure to those politicians who go wherever the masses go. The Third International is already in danger of its word and deed diverging. This danger must be exposed everywhere and at all costs, and every manifestation of this evil must be eradicated.

The resolutions of the Longuetists (like the resolutions of the recent congress of the German Independents, who are German Longuetists) have transformed “dictatorship of the proletariat” into just such an icon as the resolutions of the Second International used to be for the leaders, the officials of the trade unions, the parliamentarians and the functionaries of the co-operative societies. An icon is something you pray to, something you cross yourself before, something you bow down to; but an icon has no effect on practical life and practical politics.

No, gentlemen, we shall not allow the slogan “dictator-ship of the proletariat” to be turned into an icon; we shall not consent to the Third International tolerating any diver-gence between word and deed.

If you stand for the dictatorship of the proletariat, then do not pursue that evasive, equivocal, compromising policy towards social-chauvinism which you are pursuing and which is expressed in the very first lines of your first reso-lution: the war, you see, “has rent” (a dĂ©chirĂ©e) the Second International, has severed it from the work of “socialist education” (education socialiste), while “certain sections of this International” (certaines de ses fractions) have “weak-ened themselves” by sharing power with the bourgeoisie, and so on and so forth.

That is not the language of people who consciously and sincerely support the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is the language either of people who take one step forward and two steps back, or of politicians. If you want to talk this language—or rather, as long as you talk this language, as long as this is your policy—stay in the Second International, where you belong. Or let the workers, whose mass pressure is pushing you towards the Third International, leave you behind in the Second Inter-national and themselves come over, without you, to the Third International. On the same terms we shall say “Welcome” to these workers, whether of the French Socialist Party, the German Independent Social-Democratic Party, or the British Independent Labour Party.

If you recognise the dictatorship of the proletariat, and at the same time talk about the war of 1914-18, then you must talk differently and say that this war was a war be-tween the brigands of Anglo-Franco-Russian imperialism and the brigands of Austro-German imperialism for the division of spoils, of colonies and “spheres” of financial influence. Preaching “defence of the fatherland” in such a war was treason to socialism. If this truth is not thoroughly ex-plained, if this treasonis not eradicated from the minds, hearts and policy of the workers, it will be impossible to escape the miseries of capitalism, it will be impossible to escape new wars, which are inevitable as long as capitalism persists.

You do not want to talk this language, you cannot talk this language or carry on this propaganda, do you? You want to “spare” yourselves or your friends who yesterday preached the “defence of the fatherland” in Germany under Wilhelm or Noske, and in Britain and France under the rule of the bourgeoisie, don’t you? Then spare the Third International! Gladden it with your absence!

III[edit source]

I have so far spoken of the first of the two resolutions. The second is no better: “solemn” (”solennelle”) condemnation of “confusionism”, and even of “all compromise” (”toute compromission”—this is an empty revolutionary phrase, because one cannot be opposed to all compromise), and, alongside of this, evasive, equivocal repetition of general phrases—phrases which do not explain the concept “dicta-torship of the proletariat” but obscure it—attacks upon the “policy of M. Clemenceau” (the usual trick of bourgeois pol-iticians in France, who represent a change of cliques to be a change of regime), and the exposition of a programme which is fundamentally reformist—taxes, “nationalisation of the capitalist monopolies”, etc.

The Longuetists do not understand and do not want to understand (partly, are incapable of understanding) that re-formism, masked by revolutionary phrase-mongering, was the chief evil of the Second International, the chief reason for its disgraceful collapse, for the support given by the “socialists” to the war in which ten million people were slaughtered in order to settle the great question whether the Anglo-Russo-French group or the German group of cap-italist depredators should plunder the world.

The Longuetists have in fact remained the reformists they were, masking their reformism by revolutionary phrases and employing the new tag “dictatorship of the proletariat” merely as a revolutionary phrase. The proletariat does not need such leaders, nor does it need the leaders of the German Independent Social-Democratic Party, or the leaders of the British Independent Labour Party. The proletariat cannot bring about its dictatorship with such leaders.

Recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat does not mean undertaking an assault, an uprising, at all costs and at any moment. That is nonsense. A successful insurrec-tion demands prolonged, skilful and persistent preparations, preparations entailing great sacrifice.

Recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat means making a determined, relentless, and, what is most important, a fully conscious and consistent break with the opportunism, reformism, equivocation and evasiveness of the Second International—a break with the leaders who cannot help carrying on the old tradition, with the old (not in age, but in methods) parliamentarians, trade union and co-oper-ative society officials, etc.

A break with them is essential. To pity them would be criminal; it would mean betraying the fundamental inter-ests of tens of millions of workers and small peasants for the paltry interests of some ten thousand or hundred thou-sand people.

Recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat requires the fundamental reconstruction of the day-to-day work of the Party, it means getting among the millions of workers, agricultural labourers and small peasants whom only Soviets, the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, can save from the miseries of capitalism and war. The dictatorship of the proletariat means explaining this concretely, simply, clearly, to the masses, to tens of millions of people; it means telling them that their Soviets must take over state power in its entirety, and that their vanguard, the party of the revolutionary proletariat, must lead the struggle.

The Longuetists have not the faintest inkling of this truth, nor have they the least desire or ability to give daily effect to it.

IV[edit source]

In Austria, communism has passed through an extremely difficult period, which it seems is not quite over yet -growing pains, the illusion that by proclaiming themselves Communists a group can become a force without waging a profound struggle for influence over the masses, and mis-takes in the choice of people (mistakes that are inevitable at first in every revolution; we made a number of similar mistakes).

Die Rote Fahne, the daily organ of the Communists edited by Koritschoner and Tomann, shows that the movement is taking the right road.

And to what depths of stupidity, vileness and sordidness the Austrian Social-Democrats are sinking is only too clearly shown by the whole policy of Renner and similar Austrian Scheidemanns, who are helped—partly out of utter stupidity and weakness of character—by the Otto Bauers and Friedrich Adlers, who have become rank traitors.

Take, for example, Otto Bauer’s pamphlet, The Path to Socialism. [Der Weg zum Sozialismus.—Ed.] I have before me a Berlin edition by Freihalt —apparently the publishing house of the Independent Party, which is entirely on the same wretched, vulgar and despicable level as this pamphlet.

A glance at a couple of passages from $ 9 (”Expropriation of the Expropriators”) will be enough:

“Expropriation cannot and must not take the form of the brutal Ebrutaler] confiscation of the property of the capitalists and landowners; for in this form it could be accomplished only at the cost of a tremen-dous destruction of the productive forces, which would ruin the masses of the people themselves and would choke the sources of national income. On the contrary, the expropriation of the expropriators must take place in a systematic and regular way” ... by means of taxation.

And this learned man goes on to illustrate how “four-ninths” of the income of the wealthy classes could be extracted by means of taxation ....

Enough, is it not? As for myself, after these words (and I began reading the pamphlet from $ 9) I read nothing more; and I do not intend to read any more of Mr. Otto Bauer’s pamphlet unless there is special need to. For it is clear that this, the best of the social-traitors, is at most a learned and utterly hopeless fool.

He is a typical pedant, a thorough petty bourgeois at heart. Before the war he wrote useful and learned books and articles in which he “theoretically” admitted that the class struggle might attain the acuteness of a civil war. He even had a hand (if I am correctly informed) in drawing up the Basle Manifesto of 1912, which directly foretold a proletar-ian revolution in connection with that very war which actually broke out in 1914.

But when this proletarian revolution became a reality, the soul of the pedant and philistine got the upper hand, and he grew frightened and began to pour the oil of refor-mist phrase-mongering on the troubled waters of the revolution .

He had got it firmly fixed in his mind (pedants cannot think, they can only commit to memory, learn by rote) that the expropriation of the expropriators without confis-cation is theoretically possible. He was always repeating this. He had learned it by rote. He knew it by heart in 1912. He repeated it from memory in 1919.

He cannot think. After an imperialist war, a war which has brought even the victors to the verge of ruin, after civil war has broken out in a number of countries, after facts have proved on a world-wide scale the inevitability of the conversion of imperialist war into civil war, to preach, in the year of our Lord 1919, in the city of Vienna, the “systematic” and “regular” extraction from the capitalists of “four-ninths” of their income—to do this one must be either an imbecile or that old hero of grand old German poetry who flitted rapturously “from book to book” ....

This dear old gentleman, no doubt a most virtuous pater-familias, a most honest citizen and most conscientious reader and writer of learned works, has forgotten one tiny detail; he has forgotten that such a “systematic” and “regular” transition to socialism (the transition which undoubtedly would be the most advantageous to “the people”, abstractly speaking) presumes an absolutely secure victory of the pro-letariat, the absolute hopelessness of the position of the capitalists, the absolute necessity for them to display the most scrupulous obedience and their readiness to do so.

Is such a conjunction of circumstances possible?

Speaking theoretically, which in this case means speaking quite abstractly, it is possible, of course. For example, let us assume that in nine countries, including all the Great Powers, the Wilsons, Lloyd Georges, Millerands, and other champions of capitalism are already in the same position as Yudenich, Kolchak, Denikin, and their Ministers in our country. Let us assume that after this, in a tenth country, a small country, the capitalists propose to the workers: “Look here, we will conscientiously help you, in obedience to your decisions, to carry out a ’systematic’ and peaceful (without destruction!) ’expropriation of the expropriators’, for which you will let us have five-ninths of our former income in the first year and four-ninths in the second year.”

It is quite conceivable that under the circumstances I have mentioned the capitalists in the tenth country, one of the smallest and most “peaceful” countries, might make such a proposal, and there would be absolutely nothing wrong in the workers of this country discussing this proposal in a business—like way and (after bargaining a bit, for a mer-chant cannot help asking more than his wares are worth) accepting it.

Now, after this popular explanation, perhaps the thing will be clear even to the learned Otto Bauer and to the philosopher Friedrich Adler (who is as successful a philos-opher as he is a politician).

No, not clear yet?

Just think, dear Otto Bauer and dear Friedrich Adler, does the position of world capitalism and of its leaders at the present moment resemble that of Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin in Russia?

No, it does not. In Russia the capitalists have been smashed, after having put up a most desperate resistance. In the rest of the world they are still in power. They are the masters.

If, dear Otto Bauer and Friedrich Adler, it is not clear to you yet, let me add something in an even more popular form.

Just imagine that at the time when Yudenich stood at the gates of Petrograd, when Kolchak held the Urals and Denikin the whole of the Ukraine, and when the pockets of these three heroes were stuffed with telegrams from Wilson, Lloyd George, Millerand and Co. informing them of the dis-patch of money, guns, officers and soldiers—just imagine that at this moment a representative of the Russian workers were to come to Yudenich, Kolchak or Denikin, and say: “We, the workers, are in the majority. We will let you have five-ninths of your income, and later will take away the rest as well, ’systematically’ and peacefully. Let’s shake hands on it! ’Without destruction!’ Is it a go?”

If this representative of the workers were simply clad, and if the Russian general, Denikin, for example, were alone when he received him, he would very likely commit the worker to a lunatic asylum, or just drive him away.

But if the representative of the workers were an intel-lectual wearing a decent suit of clothes, and, in addition, were the son of a respectable papa (like our good friend Friedrich Adler), and if, moreover, Denikin were not alone, but received him in the presence of a French or British “adviser”—this adviser would undoubtedly say to Denikin:

“Look here, general, this representative of the workers is a sensible fellow, lie is just the man for one of our min-isterial jobs, like Henderson in Britain, Albert Thomas in France, and Otto Bauer and Friedrich Adler in Austria.”

February 14, 1920

  1. ↑ ComitĂ© pour la reconstruction de l’Internationale was founded at the end of 1919 by the Centrist elements of the French Socialist Party, led by Jean Longuet.
  2. ↑ The French Socialist Party was founded in 1905 by the merger of the Socialist Party of France led by Guesde and the French Socialist Party led by Jaurùs. On the outbreak of the imperialist war, the party leadership took a chauvinist stand. It openly supported the imperialist war, and justified participation in the bourgeois government. The Centrist wing, led by Longuet, took a social-pacifist line and a conciliatory attitude towards the social-chauvinists. The Left, revolutionary wing, consisting mainly of the rank and file, adhered to internationalist positions. After the October Revolution in Russia, a sharp struggle unfolded in the party between the open reformists and Centrists, on the one hand, and the Left, revolutionary wing, which grew more influential thanks to the influx into the party of rank-and-file workers on the other. At the party congress held in Tours in December 1920 the revolutionary wing received the majority vote. The congress passed a decision to join the Communist International, and founded the Communist Party of France. The majority of reformists and Centrists split away from the party and founded an independent party that retained the old name of the French Socialist Party.
  3. ↑ La Vie OuvriĂšre (Workers’ Life)—a weekly newspaper of the revolutionary syndicalists of France published in Paris from April 1919 to 1939, when it was banned. The newspaper resumed its publication in 1944. At present it is the organ of the French General Confederation of Labour (ConfĂ©dĂ©ration gĂ©nĂ©rale du Travail).
  4. ↑ Communist International—a periodical, organ of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, published from May 1, 1919 to June 1943 in Russian, English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese. The journal carried theoretical articles and documents of the Communist International, including a number of articles by Lenin. The journal treated questions of Marxist-Leninist theory in the light of the problems of the international workers’ and communist movement, published articles on the experience of socialist construction in the Soviet Union, and carried on a struggle against various anti-Leninist trends. Its publication ceased owing to the decision of the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Comintern of May 15, 1943 to dissolve the Communist International.
  5. ↑ This refers to the international political strike planned for July 21, 1919 under the slogans of support for the Russian and Hungarian revolutions and demand of non-interference on the part of the imperialist governments in Russian and Hungarian internal affairs. Separate strikes took place on the appointed day in Britain, Italy, Germany, Norway, and other countries. But this action by the proletariat of various countries lacked unity.
    The Right-wing leaders of socialist parties and trade unions did everything to prevent the international strike. The conduct of French social-collaborators was treacherous. To mislead the workers, LĂ©on Jouhaux, Alphonse Merrheim and other leaders of the General Confederation of Labour expressed in favour of the strike, but on the eve of the strike they proposed to postpone it, and in this way prevented it.
  6. ↑ Avanti! (Forward!)— a daily newspaper, Central Organ of the Italian Socialist Party, founded in December 1896 in Rome. During the First World War the newspaper took an inconsistent internationalist stand and did not break off relations with the reformists. In 1926 it was suppressed by Mussolini’s fascist government, but continued to appear abroad. Since 1943 it has again been published in Italy.
  7. ↑ The I.L.P.—Independent Labour Party of Britain, a reformist organisation founded by the leaders of the “new trades unions” in 1893 at the time of the revival of the strike movement and the intensification of the workers’ struggle to break away from the bourgeois parties. Members of the “new trades unions” and of a number of the old trades unions, intellectuals and petty bourgeois who were under the influence of the Fabians joined the I.L.P. Its leaders were James Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald. Ever since its foundation the I.L.P. has adhered to bourgeois-reformist principles, concentrating on parliamentary struggle and parliamentary deals with the Liberal Party. Lenin wrote of the I.L.P. that it “was an opportunist party always dependent on the bourgeoisie” (see present edition,Vol. 29, “The Tasks of the Third International”).
  8. ↑ Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag)—a newspaper, Central Organ of the Communist Party of Austria, published in Vienna since November 1918. It changed its name several times; at first it was published under the name of Der Weckruf (Reveille); from January 1919 under the name of Die Soziale Revolution (The Social Revolution); from July 1919, Die Rote Fahne. From 1933 it had to go underground. From August 1945 it appeared under the title of Österreichische Volksstimme (The Austrian People’s Voice). On February 21, 1957It began to appear as Volksstimme
  9. ↑ Kun, BĂ©la (1886-1939)—prominent leader of the Hungarian and international communist movement. In 1919 he headed the Hungarian Soviet Government.
  10. ↑ La Bataille (The Struggle)—a newspaper, mouthpiece of the French anarcho-syndicalists, was published in Paris from 1915 to 1920 in place of the suppressed La Bataille Syndicaliste. Its leading spirits were Grave, Jouhaux, Cornelissen and others. During the first World War it adopted a social-chauvinist stand.