Karl Kautsky


Chapter XIII
The Moscow Bonapartism

The Menshevism of Georgia is the most important, but not the only cause of the Bolshevist invasion. The world policy of Moscow forms another reason. As Czardom did formerly, so now Bolshevism, although from quite different standpoints, regards England as the greatest and most dangerous enemy of Russia. And this great Empire seems by its geographical position alone among all the Powers of the world to control the road on which England can be dealt a blow, and brought to her knee, without the mastery of the seas, namely, the road to India.

Soviet Russia is now playing with the grandiose idea of Napoleon the First to attack England in India. Napoleon came to grief by the first step which he took, as he could not stand up against the English at sea. Without the victory of the English at sea, his failure to penetrate into the interior of Asia would have been much more inglorious, as it would have by mere insufficiency of the means of transport prepared for him a Moscow at the very beginning, of his military career.

Soviet Russia does not need to repeat the first step of Napoleon. It can commence with the second. This has lost none of its difficulties, as a far larger army is necessary for the conquest of India to-day than was the case at the end of the eighteenth century. The Russians can hardly get very far without great railway construction. Such works are out of the question in the present condition of Russian industry. However, the plan is bold, and in boldness the Bolshevists equal Danton and the first Napoleon. In this quality, and not in their positive achievements, rests the great power of attraction which they exercise over so many persons who live far from their jurisdiction.

One of the stages of the road to India is Persia, into which the Bolshevists have already penetrated, although unsuccessfully, last year. At that time, their basis was too narrow. It would be considerably broadened by the possession of Georgia. Thus Moscow world policy required this country for further military progress.

As chance had it, Rosta at the same time as it announced its account of the Georgian conflict had the following dispatch from Moscow. “On February 28th an agreement was signed in Moscow between Russia and Afghanistan. “

The West of Georgia is a part of Russia’s Eastern policy directed against England.

The likeness to the policy of Napoleon is a close one, and has already been pointed out. But the resemblance is more than a mere chance. We are struck more and more with the manner, in which the course of the great French Revolution has been repeated in that of Russia, although the international situation and ideology are of quite a different order to-day than at the end of the eighteenth century.

Montesquieu, Voltaire and J.J. Rousseau are scarcely read to-day; Marx dominates the hour, and present-day Russia is not, like the France of one hundred years ago, the most highly developed, but the most backward of the countries of the European continent. But the principal tasks, agrarian reform and the overcoming of Absolutism, corresponded in Russia in 1917 so closely with the of France in 1789 that since that date the Revolution here has followed the same stages as there, only in Russia with younger and simpler social sections in considerably grosser forms.

Here, as there, we find first of all a middle class revolution. In France, it developed into the Reign of Terror of the Jacobins, who were supported by the lower classes, especially in the capital. In Russia the Reign of Terror of the Bolshevists, who proclaim the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

In order to maintain themselves, the Jacobins found themselves obliged to substitute for the bureaucracy, the police and the army of the old regime, which had been abolished by the Revolution, a new police and army, much stronger and more centralised than the old, and therefore established that machinery of domination which was to lead to the Empire of Napoleon.

The Bolshevists have found themselves obliged to pursue the same course. Gradually, they have more and more restricted the self-government of the working class in the domain both of economics and politics, created an all-powerful police apparatus, proclaimed the dictatorship of the factory chiefs, reduced the Soviets to a shadow, and instead have built up a great, strictly disciplined army, to which all that remains of Russian industry is subservient.

Thus, Soviet Russia has entered upon a phase of the Revolution which corresponds with the third phase of the French Revolution, viz., the phase of Absolutism and the domination of the police and military forces.

We may class this the Bonapartist phase. The victorious general is, indeed, lacking. Meanwhile, Russia is in the stage of the Consulate of the two Consuls, Lenin and Trotsky.

Like the Moscow Bonapartism, its French predecessor derived from the Revolution, the allurements of which it retained, whereby so many enthusiasts have been deceived. It is notorious that the fiery republican, Beethoven, was in 1804 an enthusiastic worshipper of Napoleon, immediately before the latter made himself Emperor. Napoleon passed as the incarnation of the Revolution, only because the reactionary powers hated him as much as the Revolution itself, although the Napoleonic Empire already possessed a character which distinguished it fundamentally from the Revolution.

The present-day Moscow regime has as little in common with the proletarian dominance of the State as the French Empire at the beginning of the last century had with the Republic.

The so-called Soviet Republic of to-day does not rest upon the power of the proletariat, but on the strength of its army and on the impotence of the proletariat against this army. As the strength of the army grows so the power of the rulers of the State increases, but simultaneously grows their dependence on the only element on which they are able to support themselves, the military. Accordingly, a new militarism is arising in Russia, and likewise a new imperialism. For the latter, the impulse towards constant extension of power and fields of exploitation is peculiar to militarism as well as to capitalism. The need for employing his army, and constantly providing fresh booty and advantages, drove Napoleon to that restless policy of conquest which finally collapsed at Moscow. The same conditions are to-day creating in Russia similar efforts on the part of the Moscow Imperialism.

To this policy Georgia has now been sacrificed.

It is important to make this quite clear. The effect upon us would be disastrous if it were a genuinely proletarian Republic which had suddenly invaded another proletarian Republic, a small, friendly and peaceful community. To invade it without any declaration of war, in the midst of peace, was indeed an infamy more wicked than the German invasion of Belgium in 1914. For then Germany was engaged in a war for its existence and the invasion was an episode of the world-war. The Bolshevist invasion threatens to paralyse the whole of the Socialist propaganda against the war and to brand it as humbug.

Never before have wars wrought such destruction as to-day of technical appliances for the needs of production and of communication, and never before was peace so essential to the prosperity of the peoples.

It brings consolation, encouragement and hope to large sections of people when we Socialists point out that it is capitalism alone that renders war inevitable, and that the proletariat is the force that will bring peace and maintain it.

The world rule of the proletariat would be synonymous with lasting world peace! And now we have two Republics, governed by the proletariat, existing side by side, and one makes war upon the other with a treachery that is seldom met with among capitalist governments.

Were Russia still a proletarian republic, the events in Georgia would inflict a serious blow on the whole of our propaganda, in which we describe the proletariat as the firmest support of peace.

Yet, in reality, the Russian proletariat has borne no share in the invasion of Georgia, because it has ceased to exercise political power in Russia. We are justified in continuing to assert that the general rule of the proletariat will secure lasting world peace; that between two States, equally governed by the proletariat, no occasion for war will any longer arise; and that the international solidarity of the workers will be strong enough to settle peacefully any possible conflicts between two proletarian States.

For the Russia which has just made this execrable invasion into Georgia is no longer a proletarian, but a Bonapartist community.

Far from rejoicing over the conquest of Georgia, the proletariat of Russia vigorously condemned it, as was shown by the protest issued in Berlin on March 3rd by the Foreign Agency of the Social-Democratic Labour Party (signed by Abramovitch and Martoff). In Russia itself, the proletariat is muzzled and cannot express itself freely, but the Social-Democratic Party, that is, the Menshevists, is competent to speak in its name. Times have changed since Bolshevism forced Menshevism into the background and won to its side the mass of the workers in the large towns. This was the case in the autumn of 1917, when the craving for peace outweighed every other consideration among the masses, and the Bolshevists gave to it the most powerful and unequivocal expression.

Since that time the domination of Bolshevism has become synonymous with constant war, with hunger and poverty, and also with the complete suspension of every kind of liberty of movement for the proletariat. Peace and freedom are to-day most stoutly championed by the Menshevists; the mass of the Russian proletariat turns more and more towards them; and the Bolshevists attempt in vain, by all means of electoral shuffling, corruption, intimidation, bloody terror, to dam the rising tide of opposition.

The invasion of Georgia has been undertaken, not with the concurrence, but against the wishes of the Russian proletariat. The latter is free from the latest Moscow blood guilt.

We are entitled to expect that the entire international proletariat, so far as it does not obey the behests of Moscow, will unanimously endorse the protest of our Russian comrades.

The fear is groundless that such a protest will strengthen French and English imperialism, which is hostile to Soviet Russia. Quite the contrary. We blunt the points of our weapons in the struggle against the imperialism of the capitalist Powers, if we are afraid to denounce imperialism when it arises out of a proletarian revolution, and discredits the latter. It is our business to remove the influence of imperialist ways of thinking from the proletariat. How can we do this if we tolerate an imperialism which masquerades in the name of the proletariat?

Yet another factor renders it necessary for the Social-Democratic parties of the world to make a decisive stand against the Moscow Bonapartism.

The close parallel which exists between the course which the Russian Revolution has hitherto followed and that of the great French Revolution must not blind us to the differences between the two events. In the eighteenth century France was the most progressive State of the European continent. To-day Russia is still the most backward amongst the great States of Europe. Although the French Bonapartism constituted a strong reaction from the Republic, its policy of expansion brought many improvements to the rest of Europe. The present Moscow Bonapartism is not only reactionary in relation to the proletarian revolution of Russia, out of which it arose, but even more so in comparison with the proletarian movements of the rest of Europe, which it seeks to fetter.

A further distinction exists between the old Bonapartism of Paris and the new one of Moscow.

No class-conscious proletariat existed at the time of the great French Revolution. The proletarian sections formed a tail to the small middle class, an extremely divided and unreliable class, which constantly swayed between obstinate resistance and cowardly submission, between anti-capitalist discontent and capitalist covetousness.

At the time of the Revolution this class was without the slightest political experience. However wild its conduct had been during the Reign of Terror, it was an easy matter for the Empire to paralyse this class. The Empire was confronted with no other serious opponents than the old legitimate foreign dynasties, which could not forget the revolutionary origin of the new Emperor. For Continental Europe at that time there were two alternatives, either Bonapartism or the Holy Alliance.

To-day we are far removed from this. The revolutionary struggle is conducted, not by the small middle-class, but by the proletariat, a class which, in contrast to the former, is of a homogeneous character, and pursues a single object. It will not make terms with capitalism, and much less will it permit any restrictions on its liberty of movement. The workers are not always conscious of the Socialist objective of their class struggle, as was shown in the case of the English workers for more than a generation after the disappearance of Chartism, but in all countries, and under all circumstances, they zealously guard their freedom of movement. At times they may be suppressed and forcibly held down, but this policy becomes more difficult as they grow in numbers, as their political and organising experience extends, and as they become pore indispensable in an economic sense.

For decades the proletariat has waged the class struggle in an open and organised manner.

Under these circumstances, the new Russian Bonapartism is faced with quite a different situation from that of the old French Bonapartism. The world is no longer confronted with the choice of two alternatives, submission to the dictation of the new Absolutism, born of the Revolution and the reaction; that is, between Moscow and the Entente. A third possibility exists: the overthrow of the Moscow Bonapartism from within, by means of the strengthening of proletarian freedom, which is best represented by the growing power of Socialist opposition.

The victory of the Alliance over Napoleon signified the triumph of reaction, and the defeat of the peoples of Europe for a generation. But this victory was rendered unavoidable by the excesses which are necessarily bound up with Bonapartism.

The victory of the capitalism of the Entente over Soviet Russia would likewise signify the victory of reaction and facilitate the defeat of the European proletariat, even if not for so long as a generation, nor to the same degree as before. In any event, the proletarian class struggle would be considerably hampered.

Consequently, the workers of all countries, whatever their opinions of the Bolshevist methods, have resisted the efforts of the Entente to crush Soviet Russia.

But this does not imply that the Russian Bonapartism should be defended against all criticism, especially against that which proceeds from the Menshevists. This is called the defence of the Russian Revolution, but is merely a defence of the exploiters of this Revolution against the Social-Democratic opposition, which would be best able to maintain and extend the revolutionary achievements.

Not Bolshevism, but this opposition is now the real support of the Russian Revolution. Its fate depends upon the victory of this opposition, and its speedy victory.

Russia is a peasant State, and will remain so for a long time. Russia’s political future rests upon this fact, whichever class or party may succeed in gaining the leadership of the peasants, who are not fitted to pursue an independent class policy.

Hitherto the Russian peasantry has followed the proletarian leadership. The practice of the Bolshevists tends more and more to alienate the peasants, and to make them disposed to accept a capitalist or any other kind of counter-revolutionary leadership.

It is not alone the victory of one of the counter-revolutionary generals which threatens to make Russia once more the citadel of reaction, but also the transference of the allegiance of the peasants to the other side. This would be detrimental to the class struggle, in Europe as well as in Russia.

The defection of the peasants, who have hitherto been revolutionary and led by the proletariat, can only be arrested by the substitution of the Menshevist methods, so successfully practised in Georgia, for the existing Bolshevist methods. Thus the most urgent need of the hour, and the best means of saving the jeopardised Revolution, is the overcoming of Bolshevism by Menshevism.

It is the duty of the Social-Democrats of all countries to assist Menshevism to the utmost extent of their power. This is the same thing as working for the triumph of the methods of little Georgia. It still lies crushed and mishandled by its overwhelming opponent, but simultaneously the ideas which inspired it and made it capable of great things are sweeping over the giant empire of its oppressor. Russia will only be able to prosper when it is animated by the spirit that inspired Georgia. This will constitute the revenge of the Social-Democratic Republic of the Caucasus.


Last updated on 1.3.2017