Karl Radek

The Future of the
World Revolution

(March 1919)

Source: From the Australian Communist, Vol. 1 No 1, 24 December 1920. [1]
Translated from Dutch by B. Meyer.
Transcribed by Duncan Hart.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). 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.

The following interesting letter, translated from Het Vrye Woord (Free Speech), a Socialist paper of Dutch East India, by B. Meyer, Sydney Labor College, was written by Radek to this friend, Alfred Paquet, during the former’s imprisonment in Germany during the Spartacus revolt. It is interesting to note, by the way, that the so-called “colour problem” does not appear to exist for our comrades in Dutch East India, their paper being edited by Dutchmen and Javanese natives, and, though its writers are continually being gaoled and deported, it has been kept going now for five years, and is still to the fore:

This is the first evening for eight days that I have not been deafened by the rattling of machine guns and wild shouts and shrieks. My overstrained nerves are now slightly rested, and I seize the opportunity to tell you about the situation, which we used to discuss so often in Moscow.

You see that everything has taken place in Germany as I then predicted. The Press, of course, sowing seeds of hatred, sees in it all our work, the work of the Russians. But you, with your knowledge of history, know, don’t you, that the French Revolution, too, was supposed to be caused by Pitt, the German Revolution of 1848 by the Poles, the Russian Revolution of 1905 by the Japanese, of 1917 by the English, and the Bolshevik Revolution by Ludendorff.

How can thinking people be so blind?

A tremendous expansion of world economy causes a world-war: that is to say, they finally prove that the leaders of world production are incapable of leading it at all, because they only create anarchy.

The proletariat masses have gone through the hell of a world war, and now you can see how they have been knocked materially to the ground: they have lost all faith in the ruling class. Instinctively they seek their own way – that is the force by which the Soviet system clears its track and marches on. The workers are trying themselves to get that most difficult and complicated thing, the world, under their knee.

I saw how in Germany, where the propaganda for the Soviet system did not have single pamphlet circulating, the cause itself is capturing the masses more and more. But because of their being no great revolutionary party to grope out and seek their own way instinctively, therefore is the process terribly painful and accompanied with such fearful suffering.

Our path was, notwithstanding the happenings of July 1917, strewn with roses compared with the road the Germans go.

Never did we tolerate such fights as there were here in January, and now are again, with the useless spilling of blood and destruction of goods; because we had authority by the masses, we had them in hand.

The Communist revolutionaries have not yet the [unintelligible]

[Approximately a paragraph is unintelligible in the newspaper at this point]

... therefore must vanish in chaos before it can create the new organs of revolutionary organization.

Besides, the German working class brought along with it as an inheritance the bourgeoisie, the Social Democratic Party, and the trade union movement. In these lay the foundation of the counter-revolution. Therefore the revolution itself is wild and raving and uncontrolled.

We in Russia marched to our goal through the struggle for peace: therefore the soldiers joined us, and the bourgeoisie could not resist us, as in Germany, they do, depending on the professional soldiers.

And finally, the German bourgeoisie is much stronger than in Russia.

This shows clearly how right I was when I repeatedly told you in Moscow that the civil war in Germany would be much more bitter and more destructive than in Russia.

You know me well enough to know that I am writing this with a heavy heart.

I repeat it now only to show you how foolish the slander of fighting and bloodshed is against the Communists, who, while being the only element of future reconstruction, are being held responsible for all the terrors of an elementary struggle, which having conquered its place in the workers’ minds is impossible to be checked. I do not only mean that this charge is unjust. I mean to point out that by how much the more bitterly and bloodily the working class is now being suppressed, by so much more will the harvest of hatred be terrible. And no force on earth will be able to prevent the final victory of these masses. It would be possible through reforms, real reforms, radical, practical, direct; cheap bread, good houses, agreeable work, so that the nervous, half-starved populace may regain their mental and physical status. This would, of course, for a certain period, assure the bourgeoisie the ruling power. But such reforms are a utopian dream in the state of destruction in which not only the German, but world production finds itself. That the Allies have already let five months go by without going to Germany’s assistance, is for me a proof that they are incapable of doing so. Psychological moments – no conqueror ever assisted his conquered – are at the present time as important as material. But the material reasons, too, must be greater than we are able to guess from imperfect public opinion.

The Allies will suffer for it.

I am more than ever convinced that the flame of the revolution will blow over to the Allied countries, because it they are unable to get out of Germany direct material benefits for their masses – and this is materially impossible – what, then, is the difference for those masses between an Allied victory and a German defeat?

But no one knows at what speed the development in the Allied countries will go.

In the meantime, the German and Russian working class will find each other- not for a combined war against the Allies, as I thought probable in October: because the Allies are unable to make war, and the revolution does not want war. The revolution is only forced into war through hard aggression from outside.

The combinations will be economic.

With us the situation is becoming more stable. The change of front of the Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks secures to us a stream of intellectual forces, the lack of which has hampered us strongly in our work.

The elements of disorder in Germany (bourgeoisie, etc.) will be conquered swiftly, if but once a strong workers’ organization becomes the ruling power, just because of the habit of organization there, which is even now only wrestling for new forms.

This prospect is the only one which enables one to overcome the thoughts that come to one’s mind when faced with this endless fighting without a visible object. I am convinced that after all these bloody horrors which we are now experiencing, a time shall come of reconstructive and creative work.

You know that I have the courage and know how to die, even if it has to take place in such a shameful, silent manner that one has to be murdered in his prison cell. But I hold with all my passion to life, for its significance, and for the sense of life which lies hidden in even the roughest struggle.

Therefore I will live, and will do all I can to resist to the last.



1. Based on internal references in the article (“the Allies have already let five months go by” and “This is the first evening for eight days that I have not been deafened by the rattling of machine guns”) it was likely written around March 16, 1919, the end of the fighting and subsequent counter-revolutionary massacre in Berlin following a general strike called there around two weeks prior.

Last updated on 15 October 2021