Karl Kautsky


Preface to the English Edition

THE present book is the result of a visit which I made to Georgia in August 1920. Invited by the Social-Democratic Party of Georgia, I journeyed thence at the same time as the delegation of the Second International, which had been, asked to visit the country by the Georgian Government. Falling ill in Rome, I was only able to reach the country fourteen days after the delegation arrived, in fact, just at the time when the latter was returning. I remained a much longer time in the country, from the end of September until the beginning of January. In view of the state of my health and the unfavourable weather, I was prevented from visiting every part of the country like the delegation. To this must be added my ignorance of the Georgian language. Nevertheless, I was able to enter into direct contact with the people and to acquaint myself with their ideas. Likewise, the native literature relating to the country, both official and private was inaccessible to me because of the language difficulties, so far as I was not aided by translators.

Thus I cannot pose as one who has investigated the country. Nevertheless, I have learned far more of it than an ordinary tourist; everybody most readily gave me information upon all things that I asked about; both the heads of the Government and officials as well as the representatives of the Opposition; proletarians as well as business people and intellectuals.

The Communists kept far away from me. What they had to say could be seen each day in the daily papers which they published in Tiflis, although in Russia no Social-Democratic paper is allowed to appear.

Naturally, this did not prevent the Communists from complaining about the lack of freedom in Georgia at every opportunity.

The freedom of the Press in democratic countries renders it easy for abuses to be brought to light, provided equal freedom is accorded to all sections.

Access to all institutions and undertakings was readily granted to me. As I made it a principle not to announce my visit beforehand, I could he certain that I should not be shown Potemkinian villages.

Thus, in spite of all difficulties, I have collected a large amount of information, and believe I have obtained a correct picture of the characteristics of the country, at least in broad outline.

It is not my intention to write a book of travel – my personal experiences were too slight for this purpose – nor do I propose to give a detailed account of the country and the people. I must leave this to observers who are able to remain a longer period in the country and to see more of it than I did, and who are familiar with the language of the country.

What occupied my attention in Georgia, and what I shall deal with in this book, is not a geographical nor an ethnological, but a social problem, the question whether a real Socialist Government is possible in a country which is economically more backward than its Russian neighbour; how such a Government was able to maintain itself there, without dictatorship or terrorism, using the means and methods of democracy, and what it was able, under these circumstances, to achieve.

Thus I went to Georgia to study an interesting and important social experiment, and to draw from it conclusions which would be generally valid for Socialist practice. What I studied was the antithesis to Bolshevism. However insignificant it appears, it deserves our attention not less than the Bolshevist experiment, with its many sensational reverberations.

Unfortunately, it has become impossible to follow the practical development of the two experiments side by side to its culminating point. The process of consolidation of the Georgian community was brutally interrupted by the Russian neighbour and competitor.

When, in January of this year, I set out upon my return journey to Europe, I heard that the representative of Soviet Russia spoke to the Georgian Government in tones of warmest sympathy. To-day the representatives of Georgia are in possession of proofs that already in December, 1920, the Russian Government were making their military preparation for the invasion of Georgia, which followed in February. Then the country again became a province of Russia, in the form of an independent Soviet Republic. The small country was hedged in by a Russian Red Army, which numbered 120,000 men, and plundered to the utmost extent. As a subjugated territory, Georgia suffered more severely from the domination of Bolshevism than unhappy Russia itself. The course of its complete ruination, up to the point of absolute starvation, which was completed within the Russian Empire in four years, only occupied a few months.

I described, in the German edition of this work, conditions which I had just seen, but which have been completely superseded by other conditions at the time this English edition appears. Nevertheless, the subject still retains vital interest. For we are still confronted with Russian Bolshevism, the antithesis of the Social-Democratic Republic of Georgia, a knowledge of which is so helpful in enabling us to judge rightly the methods of Soviet Russia.

The dictatorship of the Moscow tyrants cannot become permanent in Georgia, any more than in Russia itself. The Georgian people have survived many barbarous invasions; they will also survive the devastation of the Red Army and the horrors of the Extraordinary Commissions. In Russia, and consequently in Georgia, too, democracy must eventually triumph again.

Then the problems and experiences which I came up against in Georgia and which are set forth in the present book will find added significance beyond the confines of Georgia, for the whole of Russia and its border States.

The immediate future will, no doubt, be terrible for the country both north and south of the Caucasus. And even when every dictatorship, White as well as Red, is replaced by democracy, the economic organisms of those districts will, for a long time, bleed from a thousand wounds, and exist in a state of painful convalescence.

Our tasks in Western Europe at the present time consist in strengthening and unifying the Socialist parties and their international organisation. The more we succeed in this, the sooner shall we be in a position, not only to raise our own working class and our own nations, but also to lend powerful aid to a speedy recovery in the East.

Only for astronomers, but not for Socialists, is the saying valid that light comes from the East. When we Socialists of the West are called upon to bring redeeming light to the world, this does not signify a compliment to us, but a task which imposes on us the most devoted activity for our great ideal of the emancipation of the oppressed.


K. Kautsky
September 8th, 1921.


Last updated on 28.2.2017