All-Russian Trade Union Council
Source: The Communist, December 2, 1920.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). 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.
Your “democratic, constitutional” Government has decided to keep you away from the influence of the Russian workers. But that, of course, does not mean that Russians of all sorts and descriptions may not visit England. In London alone you may find hundreds and thousands of Russian exploiters who occupy their time entirely with spreading lies about and insulting Soviet Russia. For the enemies of the Russian people the doors are open, but when we, representing five million Russian workers, try to come to England, we find a closed door on which is written: “Entrance permitted only to counter-revolutionaries.”
But you, British workers, what have you done to force your Government to let us visit England? Yes, we know quite well that at the Trade Union Congress in Portsmouth you accepted a resolution, but we are also aware that by itself alone resolutions are insufficient to force a capitalist government to concessions. When your representatives came to Russia, we entered into an agreement with them that a Russian Trade Union delegation should come to England with the object of becoming acquainted with the state of affairs there and comparing the two countries. In addition to this the thought came to some of your delegates that after we had become well acquainted with the social and political conditions of England, we would come to the same conclusions that they had reached—namely, that a revolution may be a very good thing, but that in England one could get what one wanted without a revolution.
Although we did not know the internal conditions in England well, we nevertheless doubted if a working class in a capitalist country could win the great fight between Capital and Labour by peaceful means. Our doubts were all the stronger, since we knew that the propertied classes in England were the strongest and most powerful in the world and would not be likely voluntarily give up their positions.
Nevertheless, we sometimes thought: perhaps they are right, perhaps in England, the land of democracy, the working classes will evolve from the capitalist to the Socialist systems without serious struggles. But the last two months have shown that whoever thought that in England it is possible to get through without a revolution is smitten with blindness. Look at the colossal conflicts arising from the play of elemental forces—conflicts in which millions of workers are involved. Of course, it’s true they are economic conflicts, but, as Karl Marx said, every economic struggle is also a political struggle; and that is the case with the giant strike of the miners. The strike is on a question of wages, but, the whole world follows with rapt attention the fortunes of the struggle. If England is the classical land of democracy, how comes it that millions of workers have got to stop work in order to raise their wages by a few shillings?
Of course, the propertied classes and their henchmen present their case in such a way as to make it appear that the working classes are violating the sacred principles of civilisation, democracy and culture. But, in actual fact, the matter concerns the “sacred” principle of private property. Experience has shown that there is no moderate or middle way on this question. Indeed, it is impossible, for only one class can rule. That is the law of history.
It was necessary to crush the Russian revolution at all costs.
That is the prosaic, materialist undercurrent of thought, which is responsible for all the “democratic” bubblings of Clemenceau, Millerand, Lloyd George and Wilson. We Russian workers know the value of all these declarations. We saw the “democratic” work of the English and French butchers on Russian territory, when they occupied Archangel, Baku, Turkestan, Siberia, etc. But why go so far when you can see the work of your own rulers in Ireland. This is indeed a living example of the theory of “peaceful development.”
Workers of England, remember the history of your own economic struggles; remember what strength and energy you have had to expend in order to improve your conditions; remember how many days and months you have had to strike and condemn your wives and children to hunger in order to attain the smallest improvements in your conditions of labour! Remember, further what sacrifices the workers of England have borne in all the colonial expeditions and adventures! Remember, further, how many hundreds of thousands of lives the workers of England lost in the last imperialist war and ask yourselves what was the result of all these sacrifices.
One can accuse the capitalists and their Yellow Press of whatever else one likes, but of one thing one cannot accuse them, namely, of insufficiency of class consciousness. If they are in favour of a peaceful passage from capitalism to Socialism, if they favour parliamentarism and democracy, if they praise the leaders of the Trade Unions for their moderation and good sense, if they patronisingly pat on the shoulders those Socialists who come out against the dictatorship of the proletariat, then they do all these things for a very good reason—because it pays them.
The whole world now has divided into two camps—one for and the other against Soviet Russia, for and against the social revolution, for and against the dictatorship of the proletariat. And when the working classes of England, Germany and France, by their class instincts, are drawn towards us, when they come out for the protection of Soviet Russia, they, of course, help the Russian proletariat, but before all and more than all they help themselves. For the Russian Revolution cannot remain within the boundaries of Russian territory. It has marked the commencement of a new epoch, a new social relation. Between Socialism and capitalism there can be no peace, no co-operation, but only merciless and terrific struggle, till one or other wins.
At the present time, when authority is in the hands of the Russian workers, the problems before our Trade Unions are different from those before your Trade Unions. You are still fighting against exploitation, for the nationalisation of different branches of the country’s industries, while we have already passed that stage, we are engaged in a terrific struggle for the new system of economy, the new society. When you have taken power into your hands and driven out your own exploiters and expropriate the factories, banks and mines and the means of production and distribution, your Trade Unions will pass through the same change as ours have.
That, comrades, is what we wanted to tell you. But your capitalists and ruling classes were clever and did not allow us to enter English territory. You must know, brothers in the class struggle, that the Russian proletariat, in spite of hunger and suffering, does not lose heart, and is convinced of final victory. It believes in this victory, all the more, because capitalist society has outlived itself and because humanity cannot flourish on a capitalist basis. Let the world malign us, let the internal and external counter-revolution exert all its strength to crush the Russian proletariat. It will not succeed. The workers can destroy the capitalist class and can exist without it, because the proletariat is a producing class, a class of the future. But the capitalist class, even if it could succeed in destroying the workers, could not exist without them.
(Signed). S. Dridzo-Lozovsky, (member of the Presidium of the All-Russian Trade Union Council);
Sergeieff (member of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Railway and Water Transport Union);
N. Atseloviteli (President of the Petrograd Trade Union Council);
A. Kisilieff (President of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Miners’ Federation);
N. Lebedeff (member of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Textile Workers’ Union);
A. Lavrentieff (member of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Metal Workers’ Union);
N. Antoshkin (member of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Union of Clerks).
1. It was noted in The Communist that “For reasons of space this letter has had to be considerably abbreviated”