Karl Korsch 1935

Position on Russia and the Communist Party

First Published: in Jahrbuch der Arbeiterbewegung (Frankfurt, 1974), pp. 146-148.
Translated by Douglas Kellner
Source: Class Against Class;
Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, for marxists.org 2009;

In the time after Lenin's death and after the current "stabilization" of capital domination on a world-wide scale, and the year's long "prosperity" in some countries, especially the USA, many people have newly come to "communism" or "Soviet Russia" who cannot at all understand the critique of today's Russia and the Communist party which we developed in the first decade of the Revolution 1917-1927. These people, whom I have for a long time designated in conversations as the "second wave of conscripts of Leninism," have themselves never been united with the revolution of the Russian workers as a direct component of a world revolutionary movement of which they themselves participated. Rather, they are aroused by the "new Russia" and its leading Bolshevik party, with its "five year plans," with its cultural progressiveness in pedagogical fields, law, art, and film, which have arisen from the Russian Revolution in its consequently forced national limitation to the Russian state, and which still has continuing vitality as a powerful revolutionary movement. They see that in Russia another group has risen to power, influence, and effectiveness than in the old European and American world, and to be sure another group with which the new Communists or "friends of the new Russia" to whom I am referring, can more easily identify with than with the previous type of leader in their own land, or the new fascist type of leader who is advancing toward this position in some lands (and who belongs to the historical group of a still older human type). The new friends of communism have in a sense the same relation to the new Russian state that Hegel once represented in regard to the new Prussian state: "We are today so advanced that we can only hold as valid Ideas and that which has arisen from Reason. More closely seen, the Prussian State corresponds to Reason."

The application of the Hegelian principle "what is real is rational" to today's Russian state, and the Communist parties which are related to it and supported by it in other lands, holds not only for that universally freedom loving and progressive layer from which in a time of a rising revolutionary movement the struggling proletariat received reinforcement, support, and the widening of its front, but to a certain extent holds also for the workers themselves. One cannot protest against a reality simply in the name of an abstract principle. There is today nowhere in the world any longer an organization of revolutionary-inclined workers, or even a "direction" which really embodies in itself revolution as a spiritual ideal, which one can oppose as the truly revolutionary movement to the "degenerated" Russian Communist party, which "puts the national state interest above the international proletarian class interest." If the belief in "the construction of socialism in Soviet Russia" is only a metaphysical consolation, a myth, or a revolutionary faith-in-the-beyond (Jenseits-Glaubigkeit) for the workers of countries outside of Russia who are attracted by communism, this faith-in-the-beyond no longer today confronts a revolutionary here-and-now (Diesseitigkeit) in any intelligible form. The Russian Revolution from February and October, 1917, and in the following years, was, considered purely as a movement, the proletarian movement that most involved the masses in the entire previous history. It destroyed the tsarist state and demolished the old capitalist ruling Class. In all other lands the workers were either defeated or in cruel ways were robbed of all previously won positions, through sharpened pressure from outside and through increasing decay from within.

Everywhere the workers are threatened by the present economic crisis, into which in some countries already a sharpening of exploitation and oppression has entered, and the destruction of all remains of an independent proletarian class movement and even a class consciousness through fascism. Everything that the workers are told about the state-capitalist continuation, restoration and sharpening of already developed forms of capitalist oppression and exploitation in Russia, comes either from the mouths of their old well-known enemies, capitalists, fascists, and social democrats or it unavoidably remains extremely vague, abstract, incomprehensible, and unsympathetic. All these critiques do not contain and cannot at this time contain any sort of call to action for revolutionary workers. For all these reasons it is unavoidable that up until the rise of a new, independent class movement of the international proletariat, even the working class itself and precisely its most revolutionary components can look at today's Soviet Russia as the real and thence revolutionary rational implementation of the posited goals that are today still not implemented in their own countries.

London, March 30, 1935


Korsch accompanies this unpublished document with the note: “only as an enclosure in private letters to friends; please do not duplicate.”