First Published: Pravda June 1-2, 1918
Source: International Socialist Library No. 15, Revolutionary Essays by Bela Kun, B.S.P., London.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
“A thing, a phenomenon, may at one and the same time be both itself and something else.” This dialectical axiom is justified by consideration of the Czech movement. That which in Austria is revolutionary, and which there is aiming at the overthrow of the existing order, in proletarian Russia is counter-revolutionary, in every sense of the word.
We are not speaking, of course, of Masaryk, that accomplished agent of Anglo-Franco-American imperialism, but of the Czech proletariat, at present passing through the stage of the national revolution — the stage in which, in the words of the “Communist Manifesto,” the proletariat “fights not against its enemies, but against the enemies of its enemies . . .” Part of that proletariat, having found its way into Russia as a result of the imperialist war, becomes active in the capacity of a counter-revolutionary mass against the international revolution, and takes up arms against Soviet Russia.
This criminal activity of the Czech National Army cannot be justified by any revolutionary; but it is essential to understand it properly. It must be studied particularly in the interests of proletarian dictatorship — that beacon on which all revolutionaries fix their hopes. In spite of the personnel of the nationalist elements in the Bohemian revolutionary movement, in spite of the treachery of “Social Democrats” like Niemec and Soukup, in spite of all the circumstances indicated, this movement represents an active and important factor in the international revolution.
On the other hand, the events in Russia — the counterrevolutionary attitude of the Czech Army, 70 per cent of which are workmen — disclose a great peril. This peril threatens the social revolution not only in Russia, not only in Bohemia, but throughout Austria-Hungry. The counter-revolution which is threatening the railway from Penza to Vladivostok has its prototype in Bohemia and Moravia, in the persons of the nationalistic Czech bourgeoisie and the Socialist-tinted chauvinists of the type of Niemec, Soukup, and other leaders of Social-Democracy — none of them better than Scheidemann and Noske.
It should be observed that in the Czech Army, organised on the initiative of the National Rada of Masaryk and Co., all tendencies of the Czech Labour movement except the Centralists are represented.
The opportunism of the leaders of the Czech Social-Democracy, their complete estrangement from revolutionary Marxism, results, as far as the Austrian Government is concerned, in a tendency opposite to that which is noticeable amongst the overwhelming majority of the Austro-German Social-Democracy.
The Renners have become the greatest defenders of the Austrian imperial idea, while the Niemecs and the Soukups are its enemies. The result is the same, however: in both parties opportunism has led away from the international class struggle and towards a union of the social-patriots with “their” own bourgeoisie; a phenomenon which hitherto was peculiarly Austrian, but which during the war has become the general characteristic sign of all social-chauvinists; the phenomenon which Otto Bauer has named “pan-nationalism.”
These Czech Social-Democratic leaders, who during the lifetime of Tsarism organised under Professor Masaryk’s leadership a Czech National Army — making use of all the resources of terror and demagogy where the proletarian elements were concerned — had long ago lost all idea of the possibility of an independent movement of the Czech proletariat. Nationalism, revived by the opportunist policy of the “Social-Democratic” party and the trade union bureaucracy, swallowed up the remnants of the Socialist outlook on the world. There grew up a peculiar variety of nationalistic adventurism, similar to that which followed the revolution of 1848. (Karl Marx ridiculed and attacked it without mercy.) These hirelings of the capitalist class after the style of Kerensky sacrificed the Czech proletariat to Tsarism, and only the opposition of the overwhelmingly proletarian majority of the Army held them back, until quite recently, from coming out openly against the Russian proletarian revolution in the interests of international imperielism.
The more honest elements of the Czech proletariat have sunk as far as compromise with their own bourgeoisie and capitulation to imperialist agents only because they did not correctly gauge the strength of the Czech; capitalists. But class feeling must still be alive in these workers, because the different adventurers supported by imperialist gold could only carry on their activity in the name of Socialism. They made use of every form of Socialist artifice, beginning with “revolutionary-democratic labour organisations,” and ending with the most Left, in order to betray the Czech workers to the nationalists. These hirelings of the oapitalist class have found an ultimate shelter for themselves in the bosom of the counter-revolution; but that criminal policy is cutting the ground from under their feet.
This disgraceful activity with which the masses of the Czech proletariat have spotted their good name, thanks to the demagogy of the nationalistic bourgeoisie, will be their last error. The suppression of this counter-revolutionary rising will be brought about from within; it will spring from the proletarian sections of the Army. These sections are now no longer swallowing the bait dangled before them by the capitalists, nor yet that offered them by their “Socialist” leaders. This counter-revolutionary movement will, in all probability, produce detachments to defend the independent action of the proletariat, not only in the Czech, but also in the general Austrian revolution.
That action is inevitable. Where Bohemia is concerned, we foresee quite clearly not only the development of existing forces, but also the course of the revolution itself. Police “pacifications” have done all that they can do; the masses have risen, and the Austrian Government will be hard pressed to find a reliable army capable of crushing the revolutionary movement. Courts-martial are of no avail. The power of the State will none the less continue to become weaker; and this circumstance will strengthen the revolutionary movement in other parts of Austria-Hungary.
The aims of the revolutionary masses in Bohemia are very confused; they leave much to be desired. The responsibility for this lies primarily upon the members of the majority section of the Czech Social-Democratic Party, who, like the Russian Mensheviks, have been quite unable to grasp that a bourgeois revolution is to-day quite unthinkable, as Marx expressed it in his “18th Brumaire.” These social-traitors, like their supporters, the soldiers of the Czech Army in Russia, looked on the class struggle of the Russian workers with the capitalists as “fratricidal war of the Slavs,” and wished to preserve their neutrality to such a degree that, by a logical process, they finally arrived at the stage of open counter-revolution. About a month ago the various Niemecs and Soukups amalgamated their party with the National Socialist Party, which had always fought under extreme jingo watchwords. In spite of this, they emphasised, in their colourless resolution, that “they stand for the principle of the class struggle” and that “between the Czech proletariat and the capitalists there exist class antagonisms.” The whole course of the negotiations shows, however, that amongst these leader-traitors there is not one who thinks of an independent proletarian line of action in the oncoming Czech revolution.
The Czech bourgeoisie knows very well how to divert the proletariat from its own real aims, and how to use it in the interests of exploitation. Furthermore, Masaryk and his school have taken up their stand very close to the position of the semi-Marxian “lecture-room Socialists.” The more danger that the absence of any independent line of action of the Czech Social-Democracy may be used to the end of awakening nationalistic hatred and crushing the Czech revolution.
If it is true (and it is unquestionably so) that the success of the revolution can at the present time be guaranteed only by independent action on the part of the proletariat, then that principle, as far as Austria is concerned, is doubly correct. Only such action can completely safeguard the solidarity of the workers of the different Austro-Hungarian nationalities; only such action is strong enough to neutralise the agitation, the jingo speeches, and the attempts at enslavement, of the German and Magyar capitalist class. It falls to the lot of the Czech proletariat to take its place side by side with the German and Hungarian workers, as the revolutionary advance-guard of Austria-Hungary; while the Czech Scheidemanns in Bohemia, as in Russia, are acting in direct opposition to this destiny.
The class-conscious elements of the Czech proletariat, like the other sections of the Austro-Hungarian labour movement, must have recourse to the most drastic measures to put an end to this disgraceful activity in Russia. The road to that end is disclosed by the “Communist Manifesto,” and by the experience, based upon it, of the revolutionary Communist Party in Russia. Those groups and sections of the Communist Party which exist, legally or illegally, in Austria, must have the following character, in keeping with the words of the “Communist Manifesto”:
“The Communists are, in practice, the most resolute and progressive section of the working class of all countries; from the theoretical standpoint, they have the advantage of understanding the conditions, course and general results of the proletarian revolution. The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: organisation of the proletariat as a class, overthrow of the supremacy of the capitalist class, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”
The Czech workers who, being in the ranks of their National Army, are thereby serving the interests of the S.R.-Cadet-Octobrist counter-revolution, are in reality the victims of the Czech “Social-Democrats” and emigrants in Russia — men who use the nationalist banner to prevent the organisation of the Czech proletariat as a class.
No mercy can be shown to these traitors, both there and here seeking to find a compromise with the bourgeoisie, and supporting the counter-revolution — at first under the cloak of neutrality, but now openly — just at the moment of the workers’ greatest struggle. The Russian counter-revolution must be crushed as quickly as possible, in the interests of both the Czech and the world revolutions.