Source: The Communist, November 19, 1921
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.
JUST as Time is the room within which all things evolve, develop and decay, so Experience is the test of policy. It is only two weeks ago since we wrote urging for an examination of our attitude towards the Labour Party, on the grounds of the precarious position of Russia faced with the most desperate attack yet organised by the armed bandits of international imperialism. We advocated the formation of a bloc with the Labour Party in order to secure its return to Parliament as the government at the forthcoming general election. We urged that such a policy be discussed, not that we mistrusted the Labour Party less, but because we trusted the Soviet Government more than ever, and desired to rally to its help in its most pressing and difficult hour of need. Two weeks ago we argued that unless we could speedily devise some tactic to assist Russia, that our comrades there would be forced to make tremendous sacrifices and pay a high-price for our lack of policy and absence of strategy. Already the sacrifices are being made. A few days ago Lenin announced to the imperialists that the Soviet would buy peace by acknowledging and paying the debts of the old régime. Don’t let us blink at this, don’t let us under-estimate what it means; it is a sacrifice, and the greatest one yet made by the dauntless fighters of Russia. This is a sacrifice which will have to be paid for in the energy and sweat of the Soviet masses. And the worker is only beginning. The imperialist hunters have not yet called back their eager hounds of war, which are hungrily straining, at the leash, in the Russian border states, in order to get an opportunity to bury their fangs in the Soviet Republic. The blood tribute may have to be paid once again by the heroic soldiers of the Red Army. We must not forget that when the Soviet is compelled to retreat, either on the military or the economic front, it is not only the Russian revolution that steps back: it is equally a reverse for the whole international revolutionary movement.
But with only a little patience and strategy, with a little courage and foresight, we Communists could use our Party, as a fulcrum to overthrow the enemies of Russia. The Russian Communists are the greatest revolutionary tacticians in the world, and the greatest among them is Lenin. In Comrade John S. Clarke’s thrilling narrative, Pen Pictures of Russia (which I have reviewed in THE COMMUNIST), he relates one or two talks he had with Comrade Feodor Sergieff, member of the E.C. of the Russian Communist Party. Sergieff incidentally mentions two points which are striking illustrations of revolutionary strategy. He says, referring to the Russian Communist Party:—
“We have always concentrated on manuvre in order to obtain the biggest results from the weakest of forces. The Party ought to be like a lever, so that a great success may result from a feeble effort.” (p. 191).
Sergieff then gave an example of how such tactics were put into operation. We have all heard of the reactionary and autocratic, sensualist—Rasputin. He was a standing menace to the revolutionary movement and yet he was used as an unconscious tool by the revolutionary Commmunists. Referring to Rasputin and his abominable career, Sergieff states:—
“During the war he became Minister without portfolio, and his reactionary advice was acted upon on every occasion. Word was sent through the Russian Revolutionary movement that Rasputin was to be left severely alone, as his policy was suicidal to autocracy. His reactionary schemes and measures were dividing the ruling class into warring factions, and his licentious, roguery was stirring up a bitter antagonism to his statecraft.
“Everyone remembers the climax to the career of this scoundrel and voluptuary. Lured to the house of Prince Yussupof, that gentleman and one of his companions shot the besotted giant, afterwards thrusting his corpse into a hole in the Neva ice.” (Pages. 110-111.)
Here we have a splendid illustration of foresight and of using the enemy against itself. Observe with what scientific imagination the whole problem was considered, and how the death of Rasputin, by one of his allies, was foreseen. Were we faced with a similar difficulty, in this country, it would be almost impossible to get a chance to discuss the matter calmly and dispassionately before some bigoted sectarian would want to know why we were departing from the theories of 1905! Let us put on record the shattering and satirical reply made to one of the Ultra-Lefts, one of the Solitary Left Parties, who was declaiming that “their” movement was still standing upon the same base that it occupied in 1905. “Movement!” retorted Comrade J. R. Campbell, ’Movement! did you call it? Good heavens, it’s more like a monument!” There was a biting vitriolic logic in that reply. The Sectarians view the movement as something static, as something rooted and fixed to a given tactic. The Communists view the movement as something dynamic which must adapt itself day after day to the essential and inseparable realism that continually confronts it in the everchanging flux of life. In geometrical science it is true that the shortest distance between two given points is a straight line; in social science, with its clash of economic interests, and its manifold interwoven political strands, it is manifestly and absolutely false.
The tactics of the Communist Party in Britain must be operated with an eye on the international situation. Two weeks ago we said that the defence of Soviet Russia was the most important fact in the present international situation. But we must not only watch the present, we ought to try and draw up our plans to anticipate certain important and developing tendencies in the international revolutionary situation. The collapse of the mark from a penny to a farthing is the outward reflex of an internal commercial crisis in Germany. It means that the condition of the German masses has become increasingly desperate during the last few weeks. The workers there are being driven more and more into the arms of the Communist Party, and at any moment a revolutionary situation may develop. Should the German masses make a move to overthrow their masters they would be immediately menaced by an Allied army rushing in to the aid of the “hun” employing class. Indeed, German plutocrats like Stinnes are in favour of the French occupying the Ruhr Valley, in order to intimidate the miners of Westphalia. The position of the Italian workers is also worthy of notice. Events are rapidly heading to a return of the conditions that created the proletarian revolts of last year. In the event of a mass rising in Italy the two most ruthless military powers Europe—Britain and France—would at once intervene in order to serve “their” interests. British gunboats and French troops, display great alacrity in turning up during revolutionary crises in European countries. There are several countries in Europe where revolutions are possible, but which are improbable owing to the military dictatorship of the Allies. These problems must be faced by the Communists of Britain. We must consider how we can help our foreign comrades, and we must draw up our plans accordingly. This is one of the most urgent and important responsibilities enforced upon us as members of the Communist International.
One thing we do know is, that as long as Curzon, Churchill, Lloyd George, etc., are the heads of the British Government, so long will they give unstinted military and financial aid to the reactionaries in any part of the world to destroy any revolutionary rising which aims at putting all power into the hands of the masses. By adopting the tactic of assisting the Labour Party to become the government two things would happen: either it would prevent the British jingoes from strangling new revolutionary governments abroad, or it would become the responsible tools of these White Guard reactionaries. In the former case a great service would be rendered our foreign comrades, but if the latter policy were adopted by the Labour Party, and it continued the anti Soviet policy of Churchill, then it would be delivered into our hands. In either case, the Communist International would be strengthened. If our foreign comrades were able to seize all power for the masses without having to contend with either the British army or navy coming upon the scene, as the allies of the defeated ruling class, their task would be much easier; and their chances of success greatly increased. This would mean a new triumph for the International Communist movement. If, however, the Labour Party utilised its governmental power to use either the armed force of Britain or her financial power to crush any revolutionary government set up abroad, such an act would completely unmask the Labour Party, and reveal it as the willing and docile instrument of the capitalist class. This would accelerate the revolutionary movement in Britain, and would force forward the Communist Party as the true and only leader of the masses in this country. To thus expose the Labour Party and to turn the British workers against it would increase the international prestige of the Communist International.