J. T. Murphy


Source: The Communist Review, Vol. II November 1930, No. 11.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

THIRTEEN years ago this November 7th there was struck the most decisive blow in the emancipation struggle of the toilers of the earth. On this date, in that vast country stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Far North to the Black Sea, the proletariat and peasantry hitherto held in bondage by Tsardom settled the fate of their oppressors and firmly established for the first time in history the dictatorship of the proletariat. Each year on the anniversary of this day we have celebrated this victory and taken stock of battles won and difficulties to be overcome.

Every year—indeed, one must say every month of every year—has been so crowded with swiftly-moving developments that each year is a score of years compared with the years before the Revolution. Never was there such a mighty drama, never one unfolded so swiftly. To recall the first weeks and months of the Revolution, when its very existence appeared to hang on slender threads, seems an effort to recall the long ago, so rapidly have the new problems and phases of the Revolution followed one upon another. We are no longer asking can the Revolution hold on, but how rapidly can the Revolution grow to full stature, and how long can the international working class hold off the imperialist dogs of war? The first interventions have been defeated. Famine, with its dread horrors, belongs to the past. Nep is being left behind. Socialist industrialization of town and country sweeps forward with unparalleled speed. Two years of the operation of the Five Year Plan have gone, and the completion of the Plan in four years has become the realizable order of the day. Unemployment has given place to a labour shortage.

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It would be great folly indeed on our part if in our joy in the achievements and triumphs of the Revolution we gave the impression that all problems are solved, or that any of them have been solved without sacrifice, or that the new problems can be conquered without sacrifice and struggle. The very fact that the Revolution broke through the capitalist chains at their weakest link presented the proletariat primarily, along with the peasantry of the Soviet Union, with the most gigantic task ever thrust upon a country. A population 90 per cent. illiterate. The industrial proletariat only a fragment of the population. The country overwhelmingly agrarian and largely primitive in its methods of cultivation; tractors almost unknown, even patriarchal economy still extant in places; everywhere backwardness in economic development, and the economic life shattered by war and the population depleted by millions of workers and peasants killed and wounded. This was the situation when the Revolution took hold of the situation to face intervention, civil war, famine and immeasurable desolation. Let us not forget these terrific facts when we take the measure of the situation to-day. It seems incredible that this was only thirteen years ago.

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With the reconditioning and building of factories there has had to be also the creation of a proletariat from the illiterate and wholly inexperienced in industrial life. What this has meant it is almost impossible for us in a country industrialized for a century or more to realize. And yet they have conquered. New factories, new power stations have been built at great speed; tremendous engineering feats are being accomplished in record time.

We cannot conceive—we, accustomed to the life of an industrialized country—what a colossal achievement it is to draw forward in a few short years millions of peasants from the level of agrarian cultivation and life of the Middle Ages to the most modern forms of cultivation of collective agriculture and State farms. And yet they have done it, and now sweep onward at a speed unknown in economic history. The mass initiative which the Revolution has let loose is beyond comparison. We wish it were possible to convey all that this means to the working class outside the Soviet Union. Nay, if we could but convey it to our Party—our conception of the Revolution and the significance of mass work—the rôle of the Party would be greatly changed. There would be no room for romantic notions of a Soviet El Dorado falling from the skies, exaggerated word pictures that give the impression that once there is the dictatorship of the proletariat the class war has ceased and new factories, new power stations, new agricultural systems flow from the Soviet Government like water from the tap. The Revolution would be appreciated as a tremendous class war which does not miraculously end with the dictatorship of the proletariat. This dictatorship is the great weapon of the workers, which opens up a new stage of the war of the classes—the final stages of proletarian victory, which involves the reconstruction of the country on the ruins of the old order in the teeth of every possible form of sabotage, obstruction, war, calling for sacrifice, unbounded energy, unlimited endeavour on the part of the great mass of the proletariat and their allies, the peasantry.

The fact that this is the Revolution, that this is the birth and growth of Socialism is what we must grasp. This it is that makes it the “miracle of the ages.” Not from above, but from below, from the mass in action, and in the process raising the multitude to the full stature of liberated mankind. This it is which demonstrates that the fundamental rôle of the Communist Party is that of the leader of the mass in action, the mobilizer of mass action, the inspirer of mass action in the war of the classes, leading the working class to Socialism. A Communist Party that is not leading masses of workers in this war is not yet a Communist Party, and it is only in the process of becoming such to the extent that it is learning to lead the working class in its everyday battles. A Communist Party that talks of revolution and is not leading and organizing a fight for milk for children, boots and shoes and clothes for the badly clad, food for the hungry workers, has yet to learn the first lessons of what the Communist Party is. It is only thus that the Communist Party becomes the general staff of the working class in the many-sided class war. This the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has demonstrated beyond all possible argument. Without it there would have been no Proletarian Revolution. With it the proletariat fought for peace and bread, and through this for the ownership of the means of production. Becoming the owner of the means of production, it led the fight for the building of Socialism. Thus the Revolution is unfolded historically and the Party unites the aim with the immediate tasks and stages of the struggle, and the immediate with the aim. This is why the Communist Party of the Soviet Union can now call for great sacrifices to carry through the Five Year Plan in four years and be certain of victory. It makes the sacrifices as well as calls for them. It unleashes the initiative of the masses as well as takes the initiative. It is of the workers as well as the leader of the workers.

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Just as it is necessary to correct the romantic ideas about the Revolution and to bring into the foreground the real triumphs within the borders of the Soviet Union, so it is necessary to rouse and deepen the consciousness. of the Party and the whole working class to the international character and significance of the Proletarian Revolution. The capitalist class have no illusions on this score, and we cannot afford any. They were beaten in their first great war of intervention, but they have never stopped fighting and preparing the means for another military intervention. The “Peace Treaty” of the last war laid the basis of a ring of Fascist States on the European frontiers of the Soviet Union. They are armed to the teeth to-day; never more powerful in military sense, never feeling the desperation of their situation more acutely than now. The last meeting of the League of Nations reveals the extent of the desperation of the economic position of this ring of States and their alarm concerning the carrying out of the Five Year Plan (see quotation from Rumanian Minister, Madgesa, quoted in the article by Atkinson, p. 20). Since then the development of an economic war against Soviet exports is being led by France, and the Soviet Government has taken necessary counter-measures in the placing of orders. The outcry in the British and American Press, the actions of Canada and America, the discussions in the Imperial Conference, all add fuel to the fire, and the measure of desperation of the capitalist class, combined with its common consciousness of enmity, show their determination to grapple with their class enemy.

We must face the fact that in this country, despite the tremendous interest and enthusiasm in the ranks of the workers in response to every scrap of information concerning the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the Empire Unity business, the rationalization drive, the fierce onslaughts on the workers are recognized by revolutionary workers and our Party as part of the war preparation which converges upon the Soviet Union as the principal enemy of the capitalist class, we have not gathered the Friends of the Soviet Union into a mighty working-class political movement uniting the workers of Britain with the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union. This fact alone shows the tremendous under-estimation of the war danger in our ranks. We treat the war danger as propaganda in general, and not as a battle-cry for mobilizing our fellow-workers to fight it. The F.O.S.U. in this country ought not to be a little organization for fraternal exchanges of greetings and delegations to “see for themselves,” important as the latter are, but a mighty working-class movement for fighting the war danger, for uniting the struggle for the Five Year Plan with the class battles of the workers in this country against the common enemy. Until this is accomplished we cannot lay claim to a real appreciation and understanding of the seriousness of the war danger.

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The urgency, the imperative need for the development of the broad-based mass movement of the working class cannot be stressed too much. All that we have said in previous issues of this REVIEW concerning the growth of Fascism (the antithesis of the Soviet Revolution) as the crisis of capitalism deepens has been reinforced on all sides. The Polish Fascist terror, on the very borders of the Soviet Union, has reached a pitch of fury that is even calling forth the protests of bourgeois Liberals and Social-Democrats. The German Social-Democratic leaders, true to their historic rôle as precursors of Fascism, have rallied to Hindenburg to consolidate the forces of Fascism against the rising tide of proletarian revolution in Germany. That they would do this there was never the least doubt. They are an integral part of capitalism and inseparable from it, and perish with it.

This is just as clearly seen in the development of the British Labour Party. The more desperate the crisis of British capitalism the more it bends all its energy to the task of “saving the country from revolution.” Although it stands before the world confessing that it neither foresaw nor can cope with the crisis of capitalism, and now waits and hopes for it to pass, there is no question in the minds of the leaders as to their course. “Capitalism is breaking down,” they say. “Our job is to build it up to be constructive, to rebuild industry, to capture markets, weld the Empire, rationalize industry, refrain from new taxation and co-operate with all forces ‘to save the country.’” The deeper the crisis the closer the unity with Liberals and Tories, the more Parliament operates as a council of State, the more Fascist principles triumph in its policy, and the more certain is it that the process of disintegration of the Labour Party, now already begun, will extend to ever wider mass movements away from the Labour Party.

The contradictions of capitalism remain and grow ever greater. Unemployment has now reached 2¼ million on the “live register.” Instead of the markets expanding in relation to production, they contract. Mr. Thomas says let us face “cold facts” and tells the Imperial Conference that world exports have increased 20 per cent. above pre-war; the exports of the Dominions have increased 20 per cent. in the same period, but Britain’s exports have declined 20 per cent. Thomas and his Government say “Britain first”; Bennett says “Canada first”; Scullin says “Australia first,” etc., and the Imperial Conference has become the bargain counter of imperial merchants frantic with the contradictions they cannot solve. In one thing only is there agreement—i.e., to intensify the exploitation of the working class of each country and the masses of the colonial countries.

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The Thirteenth Anniversary of the Proletarian Revolution is, therefore, more than a celebration of triumphs accomplished; it is a tremendous call to the Communist Parties of the whole world to hasten with all speed in the task of leading the workers in struggles, to express to-day’s needs of the masses and unite the masses in the fight for them. A great stride forward has been made here by the campaign for the Workers’ Charter, But we are yet lagging behind. Sectarian habits of thought, sectarian methods of work are standing between us and the masses. Here and there the isolation has been broken down, and promptly the workers have responded. A mighty Charter Movement, a mighty Friends of the Soviet Union Movement—these we need, and, getting them, we can fight the Labour Government and its war plans in deeds as well as words.

J. T. M.