Source: The Communist Review, Volume 4, November 1923, No. 7
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.
SOVIET Russia has now carried the red banner, in triumphant success, through six years, of arduous revolutionary struggle. In the first years of her titanic effort we, in this country, had to explain, justify and defend the tactics of the Russian Communists. We were compelled to do this because the superficial and timid leaders of the British Labour movement readily joined in the reactionary clamour which sought to show that the Russian Communists were unprincipled maniacs, who abandoned the splendid precepts of democracy in order to set up a proletarian dictatorship. To this very day one may hear discredited chatterers, like Mr. Snowden, denouncing the Bolsheviks. One may even hear Mr. Frank Hodges repudiating the Soviet system as being something inherently Asiatic; his brilliant colleague, Mr. J. R. MacDonald, however, is equally emphatic that the Soviet method is in reality the old English policy so long pursued by the Conservatives and practised by the British aristocracy through the House of Lords. (Vide “Parliament and Revolution.”) We can leave these two amiable gentlemen to discuss the problem with Mr. Sidney Webb, who blames the German, Karl Marx, for the Soviet policy.
Ever since the capitalist statesmen were forced to realise that the Soviet Government was an ever-increasing force in international politics, so in the same measure the more clever labour leaders have been compelled to drop their open hostility to the Russian Workers’ Republic. And just as the Imperialist politicians conduct their campaign against the Bolsheviks by means of secret plottings, so in a similar manner do the “democratic” labour leaders use their political and trade union control to undermine and sabotage the growing influence of the Communist International. Thus, the attitude of the moderate Labour leaders towards Russia has been and is almost identical with that of the clearest-sighted members of the capitalist class.
At a time when Winston Churchill was launching his subsidised military puppets against the Soviet Republic, Mr. J. R. MacDonald, as leader of the Second International, was loudly proclaiming to the whole world that his organisation would stein the spread of Communism. At a time when Lord Curzon, at the behest of certain financiers and urged on by his usual blood lust, was threatening Russia, with war, Mr. Philip Snowden had, of course, to howl in tune with the reactionary clique. Even to-day, the “Daily Herald’s” official attitude on Russia is determined for it by Mr. Garvin’s observations in that Sunday organ of well-poised Conservatism, “The Observer.”
And during those six years the Russian Communists unflinchingly pursued their course, retreating here, advancing there, until they built up what is, at the present moment, the most powerful Government in the world. They did this, and in doing it compelled Churchill to withdraw his armies, and Mr. J. R. MacDonald and his colleagues were forced to bury the evil-smelling corpse of their defunct Second International at the Hamburg funeral service where its passing was unwept and unsung.
To-day we no longer need to justify the Communist tactics employed in the Russian revolution by any arguments. The triumph of the Soviet Republic, in action, is its most complete and successful vindication. Six years ago Lenin and Trotsky defined for us the tactics of the proletarian revolution in words; to-day, those tactics have been reinforced in a thousand ways, through their successful application during six years of revolutionary deeds. During those years the Russian Communists have heroically defended their red ramparts against those imperialist armies, and Labour renegades, that advanced to destroy them on many fronts. Not only had the Reds to combat all the forces of reaction that sought to advance against them from the outside, they also had to struggle with the armed capitalist menace inside their own country, with the middle class saboteurs, and with the moderate Socialists, who attempted to enforce their democratic principles by the use of poisoned bullets. While conducting this unequal struggle, which drained the energies of the best elements of the militant proletariat, they had to renew the social fabric which had been rent so ruthlessly by the destructive and chaotic policy of the reactionary propertied interests. They had, by exerting a miracle-like energy, to succour and restore the ruined economic machine bequeathed to them as a legacy from the Tsarist and Kerensky regimes. While these seemingly insuperable tasks were being carried out they also had to perfect the social institutions necessary to perform the requisite functions of a Workers’ Republic. All these things, and more, the much-abused Bolsheviks have accomplished during six memorable years. Small wonder that every honest student of society is compelled to admit that the Russian revolution to-day stands as the greatest political and social achievement in the whole of history.
Despite what has been done in Russia, the leaders of the revolution are still criticised for having abandoned and destroyed those institutions which served the political needs of the propertied class. All the spleen of the political theorists of modern capitalism has been centred upon this point; and, as always, this also has been the leading theme upon which the “safe” Labour leaders of the British Empire have tuned their miserable non-Socialist lamentations. These wonderful critics of the White and Pink brigade never seemed to have known the elementary historical truism—that revolutions are socially imperative just because the traditional institutions, of any given social system, no longer respond to the problems that history places before them.
There never has been a revolution, at any period in history, where the prevailing institutions functioned in an adequate manner. A revolution only becomes possible, and therefore historically necessary, when the ruling class find their institutions unworkable. When this takes place it is the political indication that economic contradictions and class antagonisms are reducing society to chaos and that a new way out is needed. If at such a period no revolution takes place it is because the challenging class lack the will and courage to seize their opportunity, and because they have not created a new political apparatus that will enable the hampered economic forces to sweep forward. The revolutionary struggle is, indeed, the conflict between the old ruling class trying to preserve their effete institutions and the new challenging class attempting to stamp out the old in order to build up new social organs to solve the political and economic problems of the period. This explains why every revolutionary struggle becomes, in essence, one of class power.
The revolutionary class can only become a ruling class by having the power to enforce the new institutions upon the die-bards of the old regime. Thus, when the White and Pink critics of the Russian Communists deplore that the revolution was transformed into a class dictatorship, and that the old institutions were destroyed and replaced by new ones by the methods of force, these critics are not so much attacking the Russian revolution as they are attacking every revolution that has ever taken place. These critical simpletons are, not even aware that in denouncing the Bolsheviks for having seized power and for having enforced the new social institutions upon their reactionary opponents, that they are telling the world that the early phases of the Russian Revolution were highly successful.
To wield power is the aim of every political organisation. Power, of course, is a vary necessary instrument in the hands of the reactionaries and eables them to prolong the existence of their decadent political institutions. Thus power used by a Mussolini to buttress a collapsing social system is not the same thing as revolutionary power. The latter is a constructive force because its historic mission is primarily that of creating new social institutions and of liberating new economic elements.
The success and, therefore the historical correctness, of the tactics of the Russian Communists may be measured by the humiliating failure of the tactics of the Continental friends of Mr. J. R. MacDonald. In every country where the European Socialists of the I.L.P. type claimed a victory, they have been disastrously routed. They all began their work by asking heaven to preserve them from ever emulating the tactics of the Communists. They were confirmed believers in democratic principles and worshipped the parliamentary method. In every instance they speedily discovered that a parliamentary majority did not give them any real political power. The bitter realism of defeat taught them the mockery of Mr. MacDonald’s windy and flamboyant declaration that a parliamentary majority could yield everything that the Russians won by their revolutionary tactics (vide “Parliament and Revolution”). The workers in the various countries ruled by the parliamentary Socialists soon found out that people like Moske and Ebert were only able to use any force when it was directed against the masses. These masses cruelly realised that the democratic pretensions of the colleagues of Mr. MacDonald did not prevent them from assisting in using terroristin tactics against the proletariat in the interests of the capitalist class.
But the greatest defeat of the Continental parliamentary Socialists, and of the Amsterdam trade union leaders, has been their fear of combating the capitalists and imperialists. This cowardice has directly encouraged the imperialists and Fascisti elements to rush upon the masses and to strip them of almost every weapon of defence. By failing to organise the workers into an united army, as the Communists urged them to do, they have assisted the militarists and the Fascisti in their many victories over the proletariat. The temporary triumph of Poincaré, the success of Mussolini, the continued activities of Stinnes, Ludendorf and Hitler in Germany, the imperialistic gestures of Curzon—all these are only possible by the continued tactics of confusion and cowardice which at present stamps the moderate Socialist movement in this and the Continental countries. If one of these leaders demands unity of action and courageous leadership, he is, as E. Fimmen now knows, speedily deprived of his position and silenced.
History has nothing that can equal the utter futility that has been exhibited by the moderate Socialists, who have only dared to raise their voices to attack Soviet Russia. They, more than any other political group, are responsible for the present chaos that is threatening to shatter the European world. Even at this late moment salvation can only come by the masses following the lead now being given by the Communist International.
The new interest shown in, and the study of the policy of, the Communist International, by the masses, has become one of the most hopeful features of the present crisis. In Germany and elsewhere the “democratic” Socialists, in conjunction with the reactionaries, are trying to prohibit the distribution of Communist newspapers and literature. The capitalist politicians are dropping the veneer of democracy and are proving the Communist contention that in a system based upon class differences it is impossible to avoid dictatorship. The “democratic” Socialists are also showing that they only object to terrorism and dictatorship when these are used by the masses to defeat the capitalists and imperialists Thus, all through the present crisis the enemies of the Communists are doing precisely what we said they would do. We see, then, that one of the most urgent needs of the present critical moment is to spread broadcast the literature that specifically deals with the policy of the Communist International. This is being done upon a great scale in Germany in spite of the decrees of the Socialist-Stinnes Group.
There are many small pamphlets dealing with this subject in English. There are several large books that deal, theoretically, with Communist policy. But in this, as in so many other things, it is best to go direct to the fountain head. To all who are interested in this all-important question, the very best thing to do is to read the recently published report of the “Fourth Congress of the Communist International” (price 1s. 6d.). There can be studied the splendid discussions, on working-class policy, opened out by the most brilliant mass fighters in the world. Here one can vividly realise that the Communist International is no, mutual admiration society but a serious and determined organisation of revolutionary fighters. The Communist International, unlike any other political group in the world, is its own unsparing critic.
Of almost equal importance is the volume that contains the “Resolutions and Theses of the Fourth Congress” (price 1s.). It should be made compulsory for every member of the party to study these two publications. And the more we can circulate these among those workers interested in the Labour movement, the more clear-sighted will the rank and file of the British movement become. Events in Germany and elsewhere are moving so rapidly that a great deal of new interest is going to be manifested in the tactics of the Communists.
Another indication that the tactics of the Communists are correct may be seen in the fact that while the Russian Social-Democrats (Mensheviks) are dissolving their organisations and are joining hands with the successful Communist rulers of the Soviet Republics, in Germany the Social-Democratic members are deserting their recent parliamentary rulers and are enrolling en-masse within the Communist Party. Experience has shown the Social-Democrats of Russia that the Communists’ tactics are successful and lead to victory; and experience has also shown the Social-Democrats of Germany that the empty parliamentary methods employed by their leader are both futile and disastrous.
Thus, while the world crisis is becoming ever more desperate in every country, except Russia, in the Soviet Republic the great work of social reconstruction increases with an ever-growing rapidity. Six years have shown the success of the courageous tactics of Communists; six years have also shown the disaster and tragedy that accompanies the compromise policy of those who have tried what is, at present, the official viewpoint of the Labour Party in this country.
Hence, the verdict of history and the test of experience indicates that the Communists are correct. This should strengthen and encourage Communists the world over to march forward resolutely to face the big and fierce problems that are surging forward to meet us.