Version Two, Communism and its Tactics by Sylvia Pankhurst

Part Two
Workers Dreadnought February 3rd 1923

Those who are well to do under the present system are apt to oppose Communism, from conservatism and lack of imagination, and from anxiety lest the disorganisations of the transition period may destroy their present comfort. Some even fear that under Communism the emancipated workers may revenge themselves upon those who were of the employing class in Capitalist society, by degrading them to a subject position; but Communism has no place for subject classes. It has neither economic nor social distinction. It will emancipate the entire humanity.

The hard toil of the business man and his manifold anxieties are continually cited as arguments against this or that amelioration of the lot of the workers to-day. Let the exacting toil, the stupendous financial commitments, the ceaseless stupefying anxieties be admitted: Communism will remove all these. It will emancipate the business man from his business: it will free him for useful, care-free work and pleasure, from the shackles of useless toil. Nevertheless, the Capitalists of to-day have shown themselves as ready as were the feudal lords of the eighteenth century to resist the processes of evolution by force of arms and to make war to prevent the coming of the equalitarian social order.

In the contemporary cycle of civil wars, that of Finland was an early example of this fact.

The Russian Revolution of March 1917 removed the Czarist domination from Finland. Kerensky’s provisional Government opposed the independence of Finland, dissolved the Finnish Parliament, which had passed a law making itself the supreme power in Finland, and ordered new elections. On one occasion it posted Hussars to prevent the assembling of the dissolved Parliament, but next time only “Kerensky’s seals” were on the door, and these were easily broken. Kerensky’s Provisional Government lacked the strength to keep Finland within the Russian Empire. The All-Russian Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council, which sat simultaneously with Kerensky’s Provisional Government and was steadily becoming the real power in Russia, had declared for Finnish independence. Finland at that time was considered the most democratic of countries. Its Parliament had only a single Chamber, it had a wide franchise and proportional representation, votes fort women, and women members of Parliament. In the Parliamentary elections of 1916 the Social Democratic Party had secured a majority, and a coalition had been formed. Finland had no army under the Czar: she had been policed by Russian troops, and now Finland was without an army. Finnish Capitalists had desired to retain the Russian domination and the Russian Army, but that hope had failed them. During the summer of 1917 an eight-hour working day law was enacted, and universal suffrage was extended to the field of local Government. Russia was moving towards the Bolshevist revolution, and would not interfere. There were only a few large Capitalists in Finland in the timber and paper industries, and the taking over of about ten large firms would have nationalised by industry. Already the forests belonged to the State; the Russian domination had checked the growth of powerful Finnish interests. Apparently there was nothing to prevent the country from passing on to Socialism by ordered Parliamentary stages. Yet Parliament seemed helpless. War conditions, including the British blockade, were causing a food shortage, and, though the Parliament passed a law to stop speculation in food supplies, the law failed to operate. The Coalition Government, swayed to and fro by its Social-Democratic and Capitalist members, remained inactive.

The workers were hungry: in Helsingfors, the capital, they began to seize and to distribute stocks of butter — a general strike broke out spontaneously. It lasted two days, and then was brought to an end by the efforts of the Trade Union leaders.

In October 1917 new elections were held. The Social-Democrats anticipated a clear Parliamentary majority. Instead, they lost the bare majority they had, and became a minority party. When the election figures were announced, it was found that some representatives of the bourgeois parties had obtained a greater number of votes than there were electors on the roll. Later on, when the revolution broke out, masses of voting papers made out for the Social-Democratic candidates were found locked away in the offices of presidents of electoral bureaux.

The elections had been falsified. Nevertheless, the Social-Democrats had also lost votes, because, in spite of their majority in the Coalition Government, they had been unable to safeguard the people’s food and thus lost the enthusiasm of the masses.

The Coalition Government was now no more. The bourgeois groups in the Parliament voted a resolution entrusting the supreme power to a triumverate, but dared not immediately put it into practice. At the same time, they entered into negotiations with the Russian Provisional Government with a view to sharing the power and obtaining military aid to quell the people.

Then the Russian Provisional Government fell: the Russian Soviets rose to power. Lenin, who had taken refuge in Finland for a time, in returning to Russia charged the Finnish comrades to set up the Soviets; but they did not; they were opposed to revolution.

The Finnish Capitalists were now getting arms from Germany and preparing an army.

There were divided Councils amongst the Social-Democrats: some desired a general strike to secure democratic government; others did not. The various Social-Democratic factions all wished to avoid revolution. Eventually a general strike was declared. It secured a vote from the Democratic majority in the Parliament that the Parliament itself, and not merely a Government bloc, should be the supreme power in the country. This was but camouflage. The Capitalists continued preparing the army which was to attack the workers.

At the end of January 1918 the Capitalists gave the word of command for its butchers to begin the onslaught upon the workers’ organisations. The Social-Democrats replied:

"The bourgeoisie is vioating and destroying democracy. To arms!"

Then, tardily, the workers took arms and met force with force. They might have been victorious; but the Capitalists procured aid from Germany. Thus Capitalism maintained its rule and revenged itself by scourging Finland with a ruthless and prolonged White Terror, in which the lives of many thousand Socialists and workers were sacrificed.

In Hungary the Liberal Minister, Count Karolyi, who had come into power through the bourgeois revolution of November 1918, surrendered his office, and called the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council, the Soviets of Hungary, to take the power. He did so because Hungary had been made economically bankrupt as a result of the European War and the dismemberment to which the Allied victors had subjected her. The Soviets were soon deposed by the armed forces of foreign Capitalism.

The bloody civil strife which has taken place in Germany since the war, and the invasion of Soviet Russia by the Allied Powers, are further exampls proving that the Capitalists will fight against the introduction of Communism. Italy provides a more recent, and in some respects an even more striking example.

In Italy the Socialists were making steady progress towards a Parliamentary majority. A large number of local governing bodies already possessed Socialist majorities. The masses, through their industrial and political organisations, as well as by some local mass uprisings, were manifesting a strong desire for Socialism. In 1920 the employers in the metal industries attempted to lock out the workers. The workers were organised in the workshop committee movement, which they had formed and organised independently of the Trade Unions, without surrendering their membership of the Unions. The workshop organisations now seized the factories, protected them with barbed wire, and placed machine-guns on the roofs. Workers in other industries and on the land began to take similar action. The army was sympathetic towards the movement, the Government was powerless to intervene.

The Socialist Party and the Trade Unionists, on the other hand, were either opposed to revolution, or unprepared for it. The Communists and the Anarchists did not find themselves strong enough to take the lead. The Socialist Party decided that the affair must be left to the Trade Unions. The Trade Unions persuaded the workers to surrender the factories and to become once more obedient to the Capitalist Government and to their employers.

The Capitalists showed no gratitude for the assistance they had received from Trade Union and Socialist leaders; their main concern was to take steps to prevent the workers rising again. The great industrial Capitalists of Italy, therefore, provided the funds for Mussolini to create his Fascist Army, which attacked the Trade Union, Co-operative, Socialist, Communist and Anarchist organisations of Italy, destroying their offices and plant, breaking up their meetings, wounding, or even killing, their members and officials. The Fascisti did not stop at the Labour organisations; they resorted to violence to influence the elections, and raided the local governing bodies which had a Socialist, or even a Liberal membership, assaulting, or even murdering, the members and officials who stood for progress. Finally they took arms against the Government and established a dictatorship in Italy. In their every step the masters of the Fascisti have been the greater Capitalists of Italy, whose intention has been to prevent the emancipation of the workers and the establishment of Communism the equalitarian social order which shall establish plenty and security for all.

Many British people cling to the belief that such manifestations of militant Capitalism are unlikely to occur here. Yet there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. It is notorious that certain organisations financed by the great Capitalists have constantly employed violent rowdies to combat reform agitations. The Suffragettes, the Socialists, and the opponents of war have had to run the gauntlet of such rowdyism. The Germans, Austrians, and others suffered from it during the war-time “intern-them-all” agitation. The Curragh incident, in which officers of the British Army announced they would take sides with Ulster, in preventing the application of the Irish Home Rule Act, showed that in Britain, as elsewhere, the class in power will not stop at mere rowdyism, but will proceed to civil war in defence of its priviliges. The terrible Ulster pogroms, which were organised and approved by the rich and powerful, though carried out by hired subordinates and poor and ignorant mobs, are another proof of the fact that the British Capitalist, like any other, would be quite prepared to cast aside legality, if the law should cease to protect his priviliged position.