The Tasks of the Third International
|14 July 1919
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, Volume 29, pages 494-512
Ramsay Macdonald On The Third International
The French social-chauvinist newspaper Humanité, issue No. 5475, dated April 14, 1919, contains an editorial by Ramsay MacDonald, the well-known leader of the British so-called Independent Labour Party, which is actually an opportunist party that has always been dependent on the bourgeoisie. This article is so typical of the position taken by the trend which it is customary to call the Centre and which was called by that name at the First Congress of the Communist International in Moscow that we quote it in full together with the introductory lines of the l’Humanité editorial board:
The Third International
Our friend Ramsay MacDonald was the authoritative leader of the Labour Party in the House of Commons before the war. A socialist and a man of convictions, he considered it his duty to condemn the war as imperialist, in contrast to those who welcomed it as a war for a righteous cause. Consequently, after August 4 he resigned from his position of leader of the Labour Party, and together with comrades in the Independent Labour Party and with Keir Hardie whom we all admire, did not fear to declare war on war.
This required day-to-day heroism.
MacDonald showed by his example that courage, in the words of Jaurès, “consists in not submitting to the law of the triumphant lie and in not serving as the echo of the applause of imbeciles and the catcalling of fanatics”.
In the khaki [Called “khaki” election by soldiers who were ordered to vote for the Government candidates.] election held at the end of November, MacDonald was defeated by Lloyd George. But we may rest assured that MacDonald will have his revenge, and that in the very near future.
The rise of separatist tendencies in the national and international policies of socialism has been a misfortune for the socialist movement.
It is, however, not a bad thing that there are shades of opinion and variations of method within socialism. Our socialism is still in the experimental stage.
Its basic principles are fixed, but the method of best applying them, the combinations which will bring about the triumph of the revolution, the manner in which the socialist state is to be built are still problems to be discussed, and the last word concerning them has not yet been spoken. Only deep study of all these points can lead us to sublimer truth.
Extremes may clash, and such a struggle may serve to fortify socialist views; but evil commences when everybody considers his opponent a traitor, a believer fallen from grace, one who deserves to have the gates of the party paradise slammed in his face.
When socialists are possessed by the spirit of dogmatism, like that which in former days of Christianity preached civil war for the greater glory of God and the discomfiture of the devil, the bourgeoisie may sleep in peace, for the days of its rule are not yet ended, no matter how great the local and international successes achieved by socialism.
At the present moment our movement is unfortunately encountering a new obstacle. A new International has been proclaimed in Moscow.
I am very much grieved over this, for the Socialist International is at present sufficiently open to all forms of socialist thought and in spite of all theoretical and practical disagreements engendered within it by Bolshevism I see no reason why its Left wing should separate from the Centre and form an independent group.
It must first of all be remembered that we are still living, in the infancy of the revolution. The forms of government that have sprung up from the political and social debris wrought by the war have not yet stood the test and have not yet been definitely established.
A new broom sweeps remarkably clean at first, but nobody can be certain beforehand how it will work in the end.
Russia is not Hungary, Hungary is not France, France is not Britain, and therefore anyone who introduces a split in the International after the experience of some one nation displays criminal narrow-mindedness.
Besides, what is Russia’s experience really worth? Who can answer that? The Allied governments are afraid to let us enlighten ourselves. But there are two things we do know.
First and foremost, that there was no prepared plan according to which the revolution was accomplished by the present Russian Government. It developed according to the course of events. Lenin started his attack on Kerensky by demanding a Constituent Assembly. Events led him to suppress this Assembly. When the socialist revolution broke out in Russia no one thought the Soviets would take the place in the government which they did.
Subsequently Lenin quite justly exhorted Hungary not to copy Russia slavishly but to allow the Hungarian revolution to evolve freely according to its own character.
The evolution and fluctuations of those experiments we are now witnessing should on no account call forth a split in the International.
All socialist governments need the help and advice of the International. It is necessary that the International should watch their experiences with an alert eye and an open mind.
I have just heard from a friend who recently saw Lenin that no one is more free in his criticism of the Soviet Government than Lenin himself.
If the post-war disorders and revolutions do not justify a split, does the latter not find justification in the attitude which some socialist factions took during the war? I frankly admit that here the grounds may seem more justified. But if there really is some excuse for split in the International, this question was at any rate presented most unhappily at the Moscow Conference.
I am one of those who consider that the discussion at the Berne Conference on who was responsible for the war was merely a concession to non-socialist public opinion.
At Berne it was not only impossible to adopt a decision on this question that would be of some historical value (although it might have some political value), but even the question itself was not broached properly.
The condemnation of the German majority (a condemnation which that majority fully deserved and with which I have very gladly associated myself) could not serve as an exposition of the origin of the war.
The Berne debate was not accompanied by a frank discussion of the views held by other socialists concerning the war.
It produced no formula of conduct for socialists during a war. All the International had said before then was that in a war of national defence socialists must unite with the other parties.
Under these circumstances whom are we going to condemn?
Some of us knew that what the International decided meant nothing and did not constitute a practical guide for action.
We knew that such a war would end in victory for imperialism and, being neither pacifists in the usual sense of the word nor anti-pacifists, we pursued a policy which in our opinion was the only one compatible with internationalism. But the International never prescribed any such rule of conduct for us.
That is why the moment the war began the International collapsed. It lost its authority and did not issue a single decision on the basis of which we would now have the right to condemn those who honestly carried out the resolutions of the international congresses.
In consequence, the attitude we should adopt today is the following: instead of parting ways on account of what has taken place, let us create a really active International which will guard the socialist movement during the period of revolution and reconstruction which we have now entered.
We must restore our socialist principles. We must place our international socialist conduct on firm foundations.
If, however, it appears that we differ essentially on these principles, if we do not arrive at any agreement on the issues of freedom and democracy, if our views on the conditions under which the proletariat may take power are definitely at variance, if finally it turns out that the war has infected some sections of the International with the virus of imperialism, then a split is possible.
But I do not think there should be such a calamity.
That is why I regret the Moscow Manifesto as being premature, to say the least, and certainly useless; and I hope that my French comrades, upon whom as well as upon me during the sombre last four years so much slander and misfortune has been heaped, will not, in an outburst of impatience, be instrumental in breaking up international solidarity.
Otherwise their children will have to set up that solidarity once more, if the proletariat is ever to rule the world.
J. Ramsay MacDonald
The author of this article, as the reader can see, tries to prove that a split is unnecessary. However, its inevitability follows from the very way the argument is presented by Ramsay MacDonald—that typical representative of the Second International and worthy colleague of Scheidemann and Kautsky, Vandervelde and Branting, and so on and so forth.
Ramsay MacDonald’s article is a fine specimen of the smooth, euphonious, hackneyed, apparently socialistic phrases which have long served in all the advanced capitalist countries to conceal bourgeois policy within the working-class movement.
Let us begin with what is least important but especially characteristic. Like Kautsky (in his pamphlet The Dictatorship of the Proletariat ), the author repeats the bourgeois lie that no one in Russia foresaw the role of the Soviets, that the Bolsheviks and I began to fight Kerensky only on the issue of the Constituent Assembly.
That is a bourgeois lie. Actually, as early as April 4, 1917, the first day after my arrival in Petrograd, I presented ”theses” containing the demand for a Soviet, and not a bourgeois-parliamentary, republic. I repeated this many times under Kerensky in the press and at meetings. The Bolshevik Party solemnly and officially announced this in the decisions of its conference of April 29, 1917. Who does not know this does not want to know the truth about the socialist revolution in Russia. If one does not want to understand that a bourgeois-parliamentary republic with a Constituent Assembly is a step forward from the same sort of republic without a Constituent Assembly, and that a Soviet republic is two steps forward, one is merely closing one’s eyes to the difference between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
To call oneself a socialist and not to see this difference two years after the issue was raised in Russia and one and a half years after the victory of the Soviet revolution in Russia means stubbornly to remain completely captive to “non-socialist public opinion”, that is to say, to the ideas and the policy of the bourgeoisie.
A split with such people is necessary and inevitable, for it is impossible to accomplish the socialist revolution if you join hands with those who pull in the direction of the bourgeoisie.
And if “leaders” like Ramsay MacDonald or Kautsky, etc., have refused to overcome even so very small a “difficulty” as an acquaintance with the documents concerning the attitude of the Bolsheviks toward Soviet power, concerning the way this problem was posed before and after October 25 (November 7), 1917, would it not be ridiculous to expect such people to be ready and able to overcome the incomparably greater difficulties of the real struggle for a socialist revolution?
There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.
Let us pass on to the second untruth (from among the countless untruths in which the whole article by Ramsay MacDonald abounds, for in this article there are perhaps more untruths than words). This untruth is probably the most important one.
Ramsay MacDonald asserts that until the war of 1914-18 the International only said that “in a war of national defence socialists must unite with the other parties”.
That is a monstrous, a glaring deviation from the truth.
Everybody knows that the Basle Manifesto of 1912 was unanimously adopted by all socialists and that of all the documents of the International it alone refers precisely to the war between the British and German groups of imperialist predators, which in 1912 everybody clearly saw was in preparation and which broke out in 1914. It was about this war that the Basle Manifesto said three things which MacDonald now passes over in silence, thereby committing an enormous crime against socialism and proving that with people like him a split is necessary, because in fact they serve the bourgeoisie and not the proletariat.
These three things are the following:
the war that threatens cannot be justified one whit as being in the interest of national freedom;
in this war it would be a crime on the part of the workers to shoot at one another;
the war leads to proletarian revolution.
Here you have the three basic, fundamental truths, by “forgetting” which (though he put his signature to them before the war) MacDonald in fact is going over to the bourgeoisie against the proletariat and thereby proves that a split is necessary.
The Communist International will not agree to unity with parties which refuse to admit this truth and are incapable of demonstrating by their deeds their determination, readiness and ability to bring these truths home to the masses.
The Treaty of Versailles has proved even to the stupid and blind, even to the mass of short-sighted people, that the Entente was and is as bloody and filthy an imperialist predator as Germany. Only hypocrites and liars could fail to see this, people who deliberately conduct the policy of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, direct agents and henchmen of the bourgeoisie (labour lieutenants of the capitalist class,[These words are in English in the original.—Editor] as the American Socialists say), or people who have so far succumbed to bourgeois ideas and bourgeois influence that they are socialists only in words, but in deeds are petty bourgeois, philistines, toadies to the capitalists. The difference between the first and the second category is important from the viewpoint of their personalities, i.e., for an appraisal of the Tom, Dick or Harry of the social-chauvinists of all countries. For the politician, i.e., from the viewpoint of the relations among millions of people, among the classes, this difference is not substantial.
Those socialists who during the war of 1914-18 failed to understand that it was a criminal, reactionary, predatory, imperialist war on both sides, are social-chauvinists, i.e., socialists in words and chauvinists in deeds; friends of the working class in words, but in deeds lackeys of “their own” national bourgeoisie, individuals who help to deceive the people by depicting as “national”, “emancipatory”, “defensive”, “righteous” and so forth the war between the British and German groups of imperialist predators, who are equally filthy, selfish, blood-thirsty, criminal, reactionary.
Unity with the social-chauvinists is betrayal of the revolution, betrayal of the proletariat, betrayal of socialism, desertion to the bourgeoisie, because it is “unity” with the national bourgeoisie of “one’s own” country against the unity of the international revolutionary proletariat, is unity with the bourgeoisie against the proletariat.
The war of 1914-18 has definitely proved this. Let anyone who does not understand this remain in the yellow Berne International of traitor-socialists.
Ramsay MacDonald, with the amusing naïveté of a “drawing-room” socialist who carelessly uses words without at all understanding their serious significance, giving no thought whatever to the fact that words commit one to deeds, declares that in Berne “a concession to non-socialist public opinion” was made.
Precisely! We regard the whole of the Berne International as yellow, treacherous and perfidious because the whole of its policy is a “concession ” to the bourgeoisie.
Ramsay MacDonald knows perfectly well that we have built the Third International and broken unreservedly with the Second International because we became convinced that it was hopeless, incorrigible, played the part of a servant to imperialism, of a vehicle of bourgeois influence, bourgeois lies and bourgeois corruption in the labour movement. If in desiring to discuss The Third International Ramsay MacDonald evades the substance of the matter, beats about the bush, utters empty phrases and does not speak of what should be spoken about, that is his fault and his crime. For the proletariat needs the truth, and there is nothing more harmful to its cause than plausible, respectable, petty-bourgeois lies.
The problem of imperialism and of its connection with opportunism in the labour movement, with the betrayal of the workers’ cause by labour leaders, was raised long ago, very long ago.
For a period of forty years, from 1852 to 1892, Marx and Engels constantly pointed to the fact that the upper stratum of the British working class was becoming increasingly bourgeois as a consequence of the country’s peculiar economic conditions (colonies, monopoly of the world market, etc.). In the seventies of last century Marx won himself the honourable hatred of the despicable heroes of the Berne International trend of those days, of the opportunists and reformists, for branding many of the British trade union leaders as men who had sold themselves to the bourgeoisie or were in its pay for services rendered to its class from within the labour movement.
During the Anglo-Boer War, the Anglo-Saxon press quite clearly raised the problem of imperialism as the latest (and last ) stage of capitalism. If my memory serves me right, it was none other than Ramsay MacDonald who then resigned from the Fabian Society, that prototype of the Berne International, that nursery and model of opportunism, which Engels describes, with the power, brilliancy and truth of genius, in his correspondence with Sorge. “Fabian imperialism”—such was the common expression employed at that time in British socialist literature.
If Ramsay MacDonald has forgotten this, all the worse for him.
“Fabian imperialism” and “social-imperialism” are one and the same thing: socialism in words, imperialism in deeds, the growth of opportunism into imperialism. This has now become, during the war of 1914-18 and since, a universal fact. The failure to understand it shows the great blindness of the Berne yellow International, and is its great crime. Opportunism, or reformism, inevitably had to grow into a phenomenon of world-wide importance, socialist-imperialism, or social-chauvinism, because imperialism brought to the fore a handful of very rich, advanced nations, engaged in plundering the whole world, and thereby enabled the bourgeoisie of those countries, out of their monopolist superprofits (imperialism is monopoly capitalism), to bribe the upper strata of the working class.
Only ignoramuses or hypocrites who deceive the workers by repeating platitudes about capitalism and in this way cover up the bitter truth that a whole trend in socialism has gone over to the imperialist bourgeoisie could fail to see the economic inevitability of this development under imperialism.
And from this fact two indisputable conclusions emerge.
First conclusion: the Berne International is in fact, from the angle of its real historical and political role, and irrespective of the good will and pious wishes of particular members of it, an organisation of agents of international imperialism operating within the labour movement, permeating that movement with bourgeois influence, bourgeois ideas, bourgeois lies, and bourgeois corruption.
In countries where democratic parliamentary culture is of long standing, the bourgeoisie has learned splendidly to use deception, bribery and flattery in their most subtle forms as well as violence. Not for nothing have the “luncheons” given to British “labour leaders” (i.e., lieutenants of the bourgeoisie whose duty is to fool the workers) have acquired notoriety; Engels in his day spoke about them. To the same category of facts belongs the “charming” reception given by M. Clemenceau to the traitor-socialist Merrheim, the courteous receptions given by Entente ministers to the leaders of the Berne International, and so on and so forth. “You train ’em, and we buy ’em,” a clever capitalist, an Englishwoman, said to Mr. Social-imperialist Hyndman, who related in his memoirs how this lady, a person shrewder than all the leaders of the Berne International put together, appraised the “labours” of the socialist intellectuals in training workers to become socialist leaders.
During the war, when the Vanderveldes, Brantings and the whole gang of traitors organised “international” conferences, the French bourgeois newspapers were bitingly scornful, and right]y so. They said: “These Vanderveldes seem to be suffering from a sort of tic. Just as those who suffer from tic cannot utter a couple of phrases without strangely twitching the muscles of the face, so the Vanderveldes cannot make a political speech without repeating, parrot-like, the words internationalism, socialism, international working-class solidarity, proletarian revolution, etc. Let them repeat any sacramental formulas they like so long as they help to lead the workers by the nose and serve us, the capitalists, in waging the imperialist war and enslaving the workers.”
Sometimes the British and French bourgeoisie are very clever and excellently appraise the servile role played by the Berne International.
Martov wrote somewhere: “You Bolsheviks hurl abuse at the Berne International but ’your own’ friend Loriot is a member of it.”
That is the argument of a rogue; for everybody knows that Loriot is openly, honestly and heroically fighting for the Third International. In 1902, when Zubatov organised meetings of workers in Moscow in order to hoodwink them with “police socialism”, the worker Babushkin, whom I had known since 1894 when he was in my study circle for workers in St. Petersburg, and who was one of the best and most devoted workers of the Iskra trend, one of the best leaders of the revolutionary proletariat, and was shot in 1906 by Rennenkampf in Siberia—Babushkin used to attend the Zubatov meetings in order to fight Zubatovism and to withdraw the workers from its clutches. Babushkin had no more connection with Zubatov than Loriot with Berne.
The second conclusion is that the Third, Communist, International has been formed so as to prevent “socialists” from confining themselves to the verbal recognition of revolution, examples of which are provided by Ramsay MacDonald in his article. Verbal recognition of revolution, which in fact concealed a thoroughly opportunist, reformist, nationalist, petty-bourgeois policy, was the basic sin of the Second International, and we are waging a life-and-death struggle against this evil.
When it is said that the Second International died after suffering shameful bankrupt( y, one must be able to understand what this means. It means that opportunism, reformism, petty-bourgeois socialism went bankrupt and died. For.the Second International rendered historic service, it has achievements to its credit that are GREEK PAGE 504 (everlasting) and which the class-conscious worker will never renounce—the creation of mass working-class organisations—co-operative, trade union and political—the utilisation of the bourgeois parliamentary system, and of all the institutions in general of bourgeois democracy, etc.
In order to really defeat opportunism, which caused the shameful death of the Second International, in order to really assist the revolution, the approach of which even Ramsay MacDonald is obliged to admit, it is necessary:
Firstly, to conduct all propaganda and agitation from the viewpoint of revolution as opposed to reforms, systematically explaining to the masses, both theoretically and practically, at every step of parliamentary, trade union, co-operative, etc., activity, that they are diametrically opposed. Under no circumstances to refrain (save in special cases, by way of exception) from utilising the parliamentary system and all the “liberties” of bourgeois democracy; not to reject reforms, but to regard them only as a by-product of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat. Not a single party affiliated to the Berne International meets these requirements. Not a single one of them shows that it has any idea of how to conduct its propaganda and agitation as a whole, explaining how reform differs from revolution; nor do they know how to train both the Party and the masses’ unswervingly for revolution.
Secondly, legal work must be combined with illegal work. The Bolsheviks have always taught this, and did so with particular insistence during the war of 1914-18. The heroes of despicable opportunism ridiculed this and smugly extolled the “legality”, “democracy”, “liberty” of the West-European countries, republics, etc. Now, however, only out-and-out swindlers, who deceive the workers with phrases, can deny that the Bolsheviks proved to be right. In every single country in the world, even the most advanced and ’freest” of the bourgeois republics, bourgeois terror reigns, and there is no such thing as freedom to carry on agitation for the socialist revolution, to carry on propaganda and organisational work precisely in this sense. The party which to this day has not admitted this under the rule of the bourgeoisie and does not carry on systematic, all-sided illegal work in spite of the laws of the bourgeoisie and of the bourgeois parliaments is a party of traitors and scoundrels who deceive the people by their verbal recognition of revolution. The place for such parties is in the yellow, Berne International. There is no room for them in the Communist International.
Thirdly, unswerving and ruthless war must be waged for the expulsion from the labour movement of all those opportunist leaders who exposed themselves both before and particularly during the war, both in the political sphere and particularly in the trade unions, and the co-operatives. The theory of “neutrality” is a false and despicable evasion, which helped the bourgeoisie to capture the masses in 1914-18. Parties which stand for revolution in words but in deeds fail to carry on undeviating work to spread the influence of precisely the revolutionary and only of the revolutionary party in every sort of mass organisation of the workers are parties of traitors.
Fourthly, there must be no toleration of the verbal condemnation of imperialism while no real revolutionary struggle is waged for the liberation of the colonies (and dependent nations) from one’s own imperialist bourgeoisie. That is hypocrisy. That is the policy of the agents of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement (labour lieutenants of the capitalist class). The British, French, Dutch, Belgian, or other party which is hostile to imperialism in words but in deeds does not wage a revolutionary struggle within “its own” colonies for the overthrow of “its own” bourgeoisie, does not systematically assist the revolutionary work which has already begun everywhere in the colonies, and does not send arms and literature to the revolutionary parties in the colonies, is a party of scoundrels and traitors.
Fifthly, the extreme hypocrisy of the parties of the Berne International is to be seen in their typical recognition of revolution in words while they flaunt before the workers high-sounding phrases about recognising revolution but as far as deeds are concerned go no farther than adopting a purely reformist attitude to those beginnings, elements, manifestations of the growth of revolution in all mass actions which break bourgeois laws and go beyond the bounds of all legality, as for example, mass strikes, street demonstrations, soldiers’ protests, meetings among the troops, leaflet distribution in barracks, camps, etc.
If you ask any hero of the Berne International whether his party does such systematic work, he will answer you either with evasive phrases to conceal that such work is not being done—his party lacks the organisations and the machinery for doing it, is incapable of doing it—or with declamatory speeches against “putschism ” (pyrotechnics), “anarchism”, etc. And it is that which constitutes the betrayal of the working class by the Berne International, its actual desertion to the camp of the bourgeoisie.
All the-scoundrelly leaders of the Berne International take great pains to affirm their “sympathy” for revolution in general, and for the Russian revolution in particular. But only hypocrites or simpletons can fail to understand that the particularly rapid successes of the revolution in Russia are due to the many years’ work by the revolutionary party in the ways indicated; for years illegal machinery was systematically built up to direct demonstrations and strikes, to conduct work among the troops; a detailed study was made of methods; illegal literature was issued summing up experience acquired and educating the whole Party in the idea that revolution was necessary; leaders of the masses were trained for such events, etc., etc.
The most profound and radical differences, which sum up all that has been said above and explain the inevitability of an irreconcilable theoretical and practical political struggle of the revolutionary proletariat against the Berne International, centre around two issues—transformation of the imperialist war into civil war, and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The best proof that the Berne International is held captive by bourgeois ideology is its failure to understand (or not desiring to understand, or pretending not to understand) the imperialist character of the war of 1914-18 and the inevitability of its transformation into civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in all the advanced countries.
When the Bolsheviks, as far back as November 1914, pointed to this inevitability, the philistines of all countries retorted with stupid sneers, and among these philistines were all the leaders of the Berne International. Now, the transformation of the imperialist war into civil war has become a fact in a number of countries, not only in Russia but also in Finland, in Hungary, in Germany, and even in neutral Switzerland, and that civil war is maturing is seen, felt, and sensed in all advanced countries without exception.
To ignore this problem now (as Ramsay MacDonald does) or to try to evade the issue of the inevitability of civil war with sentimental conciliatory phrases (as Messrs. Kautsky and Co. do) is tantamount to direct betrayal of the proletariat, equivalent to actual desertion to the bourgeoisie. Because the real political leaders of the bourgeoisie have long understood the inevitability of civil war and are making excellent, thoughtful and systematic preparations for it and are strengthening their positions in anticipation of it.
The bourgeoisie of the whole world are exerting all their strength, enormous energy, intellect and determination, hesitating at no crime, and condemning whole countries to famine and complete extinction, in the preparations they are making to crush the proletariat in the impending civil war. The heroes of the Berne International, on the other hand, like simpletons, or hypocritical parsons, or pedantic professors, chant their old, worn-out, threadbare reformist song! No spectacle could be more revolting or more disgusting!
The Kautskys and MacDonalds continue to frighten the capitalists with the menace of revolution, to scare the bourgeoisie with the menace of civil war in order to obtain concessions from them and get them to agree to follow the reformist path. This is what all the writings, all the philosophy, all the policy of the entire Berne International amount to. We saw that miserable lackey’s trick played in Russia in 1905 by the liberals (Constitutional-Democrats), and in 1917-19 by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. The servile souls of the Berne International never think of inculcating upon the masses the idea of the inevitability and necessity of defeating the bourgeoisie in civil war, of pursuing a policy wholly dedicated to this aim, of elucidating, raising and solving all problems from this, and only from this, point of view. That is why our sole aim should be once and for all to push the incorrigible reformists, i.e., nine-tenths of the leaders of the Berne International, into the cesspool of the hirelings of the bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie needs hirelings who enjoy the trust of a section of the working class, whitewash and prettify the bourgeoisie with talk about the reformist path being possible, throw dust in the eyes of the people by such talk, and divert the people from revolution by giving glowing descriptions of the charms and possibilities of the reformist path.
All the writings of the Kautskys, and of our Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, boil down to such white-washing and to the whining of the cowardly philistine who fears revolution.
We cannot repeat here in detail the main economic causes that have made the revolutionary (and only the revolutionary) path inevitable, and have made impossible any solution other than civil war to the problems history has placed on the order of the day. Volumes must and will be written about this. If the Kautskys and other leaders of the Berne International do not understand this, all that can be said is ignorance is closer to the truth than prejudice.
Now, after the war, ignorant but sincere men of labour and supporters of the working people, understand the inevitability of revolution, of civil war and of the dictatorship of the proletariat far more easily than do the gentlemen stuffed with most learned reformist prejudices, the Kautskys, MacDonalds, Vanderveldes, Brantings, Turatis, and tutti quanti.[All the others.—Editor]
As one of the particularly striking confirmations of the phenomenon observable everywhere, on a mass scale, namely, that of the growth of revolutionary consciousness among the masses, we may take the novels of Henri Barbusse, Le Feu (Under Fire) and Clarté (Light). The former has already been translated into all languages, and in France 230,000 copies have been sold. The transformation of an absolutely ignorant rank-and-filer, utterly crushed by philistine ideas and prejudices, into a revolutionary under the influence of the war is depicted with extraordinary power, talent and truthfulness.
The mass of proletarians and semi-proletarians are on our side and are coming over to us by leaps and bounds. The Berne International is a General Staff without an army, and will collapse like a house of cards if thoroughly exposed to the masses.
The name of Karl Liebknecht was used in the whole of the Entente bourgeois press during the war in order to deceive the masses; the French and British imperialist pirates and plunderers were shown as sympathising with this hero, with this “sole honest German”, as they said.
Now the heroes of the Berne International belong to the same organisation as the Scheidemanns who engineered the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the Scheidemanns who fulfilled the role of worker-executioners and rendered hangman’s service to the bourgeoisie. In words—hypocritical attempts to “condemn” the Scheidemanns (as if “condemning” makes any difference!). In deeds—belonging to the same organisation as the murderers do.
In 1907 the late Harry Quelch was expelled by the German Government from Stuttgart for describing a gathering of European diplomats as a “thieves’ supper”. The leaders of the Berne International are not only participants in a thieves’ supper, but even in a vile assassins’ supper.
They will not escape the justice of the revolutionary workers.
Ramsay MacDonald disposes of the problem of the dictatorship of the proletariat in a couple of words as if it were a subject for a discussion on freedom and democracy.
But it is not. It is time to act, it is too late for discussions.
The most dangerous thing about the Berne International is its verbal recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. These people are capable of recognising everything, of signing everything, as long as they can keep at the head of the labour movement. Kautsky now says that he is not opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat! The French social-chauvinists and Centrists put their names to resolutions in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat!
But they deserve not the slightest confidence.
It is not verbal recognition that is needed, but a complete rupture in deeds with the policy of reformism, with prejudices about bourgeois freedom and bourgeois democracy, the pursuit in deeds of the policy of revolutionary class struggle.
Attempts are being made to recognise the dictatorship of the proletariat in words, in order to smuggle in along with it the “will of the majority”, “universal suffrage” (this is exactly what Kautsky does), bourgeois parliamentarism, rejection of the idea that the entire bourgeois machinery of state must be destroyed, smashed, blown up. These new evasions, new loopholes of reformism, are most of all to be feared.
The dictatorship of the proletariat would be impossible if the majority of the population did not consist of proletarians and semi-proletarians. Kautsky and Co. try to falsify this truth by arguing that “the vote of the majority is required for the dictatorship of the proletariat to be recognised as “valid”.
Comical pedants! They fail to understand that voting within the bounds, institutions and customs of bourgeois parliamentarism is a part of the bourgeois state machinery that has to be broken and smashed from top to bottom in order to give effect to the dictatorship of the proletariat, in order to pass from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy.
They fail to understand that when history places the dictatorship of the proletariat on the order of the day it is not voting, but civil war that decides all serious political problems.
They fail to understand that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the rule of one class, which takes into its hands the entire machinery of the new state, and which defeats the bourgeoisie and neutralises the whole of the petty bourgeoisie—the peasantry, the lower middle class and the intelligentsia.
The Kautskys and MacDonalds recognise the class struggle in words, but in deeds forget about it at the most decisive moment in the history of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat—at the moment when, having seized state power, and supported by the semi-proletariat, the proletariat with the aid of this power continues the class struggle until classes are abolished.
Like real philistines, the leaders of the Berne International repeat bourgeois-democratic catchwords about freedom, equality and democracy, but fail to see that they are repeating fragments of ideas concerning the free and equal commodity owner, fail to understand that the proletariat needs a state not for the “freedom”, but for the suppression of its enemy, the exploiter, the capitalist.
The freedom and equality of the commodity owner are as dead as capitalism. And the Kautskys and MacDonalds will never be able to revive it.
The proletariat needs the abolition of classes—such is the real content of proletarian democracy, of proletarian freedom (freedom from the capitalist, from commodity exchange), of proletarian equality (not equality of classes— that is the banality which the Kautskys, Vanderveldes and MacDonalds slip into—but the equality of the working people who overthrow capital and capitalism).
So long as classes exist the freedom and equality of classes is a bourgeois deception. The proletariat takes power, becomes the ruling class, smashes bourgeois parliamentarism and bourgeois democracy, suppresses the bourgeoisie, suppresses all the attempts of all other classes to return to capitalism, gives real freedom and equality to the working people (which is practicable only when the private ownership of the means of production has been abolished ), and gives them not only the “right to”, but the real use of, what has been taken from the bourgeoisie.
He who fails to understand this content of the dictatorship of the proletariat (or what is the same thing, Soviet power, or proletarian democracy) is misusing the term dictatorship of the proletariat.
I cannot here develop these ideas in greater detail; I have done so in The State and Revolution and in the pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. I shall conclude by dedicating these remarks to the delegates to the Lucerne Congress (August 10, 1919) of the Berne International.
July 14, 1919
- Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1965, pp. 110, 351, 408; Engels’s letter to Marx of August 11, 1881 and to F. Sorge of September 21, 1872, Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1962, pp. 414-19.
- Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1965, pp. 453-54.
- Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1965, pp. 408.
- Harry Quelch said this in his speech at the Stuttgart Congress of the Second International in 1907. Harry Quelch called the Hague Conference, held at the same time, “a thieves’ supper”, and for this was deported by the German Government (see the article “Harry Quelch”, present edition, Vol. 19, pages 369-71).
- This refers to the conference of the Second International held in Lucerne (Switzerland) from August 2 to August 9, 1919. Lenin characterised the speeches of the delegates in his article “How the Bourgeoisie Utilises Renegades” (see present edition, Vol. 30).