Written: Written on May 20 (June 2), 1913
Published: Published on May 26, 1913 in Pravda No. 120. Printed from the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 244-246.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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In backward states, where the mass of the people have no rights, where there is no political liberty, where the authorities have arbitrary powers, political organisations on any broad scale are non-existent. Only tiny groups of landowners or millionaire industrialists enjoy “the right of association”; but they turn all their attention to high quarters, to “the spheres”, to the authorities, and not only shun but dread any massive organisation of the people.
In states with assured constitutional foundations and the people’s right to take part in government, it is not only the socialists who strive to organise the masses (their only strength lies in educating and organising the masses), but also the reactionary parties. If the state system has been made democratic, the capitalists must seek support among the masses, and for this the latter must be organised around the watchwords of clericalism (Black-Hundredism and religion), of nationalism and chauvinism, etc.
Political liberty does not eliminate the class struggle but, on the contrary, makes it broader and more conscious, drawing into it the most backward sections of the people, and teaching them politics and defence of their views and interests.
It is instructive to see how, for example, the German reactionary party of the “Centre”, i.e., the Catholics, organises masses of the people. They strive to get the masses to defend capitalism around the watchwords of religion and “patriotism”. And the Catholics in Germany have succeeded in playing up the people’s prejudices and ignorance, partly owing to the fact that the Catholics in Germany are a minority of the population, which at one time was subjected to persecution by the state. And the masses of toilers and exploited always instinctively tend to sympathise with those who arc persecuted. The Catholic reactionaries have made skilful use of this sentiment.
The Catholics have created a mass organisation, the so-called People’s Union for Catholic Germany. The Union has three-quarters of a million members. The organisation is strictly centralised. Its aim is to safeguard the “ christian” (in practice, capitalist) system, and fight “ destructive” (i.e., socialist) tendencies.
The Union is headed by a 24–man board. Of them, 9 handle the board’s business correspondence, and the rest are representatives of different regions, large cities, etc. There is one “agent” for every 20–40 Catholic families. All the agents act on instructions from the board.
The Catholics, when attacking the Social-Democrats, usually accuse the Social-Democratic agitators of living on the workers’ coppers. But in their own organisation the Catholics themselves act in precisely the same way: in every place of any importance they have paid agitators.
Work at the party executive is organised on strictly factory lines. Twenty special officials are in charge of “literature”: one handles theology, another, the agrarian question, a third, the Social-Democratic movement, a fourth, the artisans, etc. They make cuttings and extracts from newspapers and journals, and keep a card index. They have a staff of stenographers. A special library has 40,000 volumes. They draw up letters to the press—“reports”— which are published by dozens of Catholic papers. Special branches of this correspondence deal with “social and political questions” and “apologetics” (i.e., defence of religion and Christianity). Series of booklets are published on all questions. As many as 5,000 sets of speakers’ notes on various subjects are sent out every year. A special department deals with propaganda by films. An information bureau answers queries of every kind free of charge: in 1912 it answered over 18,000,000.
Catholic students are regularly recruited for propaganda and agitation, particularly during vacations. The agents (of whom there are several tens of thousands) attend special “social courses”. There are special two-month courses at the party executive for “training” to fight the Social-Democrats. There are special fortnightly courses for peasants, teachers, shop assistants, etc.
The reactionary German Catholics are rather well organised. But all their work is a feeble imitation of the work of the German Social-Democrats.