Karl Radek

Dictatorship and Terrorism


by Patrick Lavin

It has been suggested that when one is confronted with that unlovely spectacle, the revolutionary turned cautious, one should he very chary of attributing unworthy motives to him in explanation of the change, as the case of the seeming apostate is really one that calls for pathological investigation. An obvious objection to this view is that if the perversion is due to the operation of some as yet undiscovered disease, the peculiar malady generally strikes its victim at a time when he has just been made the recipient of some signal favor by his (capitalist) government. However, in these days of disillusionments, one is sometimes tempted to believe that there may be some truth in the theory. The experience that Socialists had of seeing a number of men whom they had respected and looked up to as leaders coming out, one after another, in support of the late war, was calculated to damp considerably their faith in human nature. There is, to be sure, the consolation that the plague of Intellectuals that has for so many years afflicted the Socialist movement in Great Britain and other advanced capitalist countries, is likely to find its sphere of operations severely restricted in a time of future crisis. The shameful desertion of the principles professed during periods of comparative calm by the gentlemen who were kind enough to come down from their high estate and “lead” us, was too flagrant to escape the notice of even the least observant. (One of these champions of the proletariat, Mr. H.M. Hyndman, used to be very fond of telling us that the phenomenon of superior people like himself coming down to direct the movement of the workers, was one that was common throughout history.) The case of the literary Intellectuals – men who had, after years of effort, won a “public” they were determined to keep, no matter how great the sacrifice of principle involved – was, from the nature of their profession, the most notorious. Britain, which had led the world in so many departments of human activity, has upheld its pioneer tradition by producing the classic example of literary treachery – Mr. George Bernard Shaw. If any reader objects that Mr. Shaw is an Irishman, the reply is that he considers himself an Englishman. England is his spiritual – and financial – home. This man, who makes his living by trading on the ignorance and the credulity of the British people, wrote a book (a new edition of which appeared shortly before the war broke out) containing one of the most trenchant exposures of Imperialism and militarism ever penned – this man appeared as a supporter of an Empire, the course of whose history has been aptly described as “one reeking path of infamies,” in what was perhaps the most criminal of all its criminal wars. To realize the depth of infamy reached by him and others of his type who still wish to compel subject nations to remain in the British Empire, it is only necessary to refer to the treatment meted out by that Empire’s rulers to the people of Ireland. The details here given may have the effect of turning the attention of some pacifist propagandists from the violent tactics of the Russian Government, and directing it to the methods of a terrorist governing gang whose ferocity has seldom, if ever, been equalled within the historical period, and whose only possible rivals in the disgraceful competition of atrocities would appear to be their cousins who rule the mighty Empire camouflaged under the title of the United States of America.

From May to December, 1916, 38 Irish citizens were murdered, 1,949 deported, 3,226 arrested, 119 court martialed and 160 sentenced. In the same period 13 newspapers were suppressed. In 1917 there were 7 murders, 24 deportations, 18 armed assaults on civilians, 349 arrests, 38 court-martialed, 269 sentences. Three newspapers were suppressed.

In 1918 six people were murdered, 91 deported, 1,107 arrested, 973 sentenced, 62 court-martialed, and 81 assaulted by armed assailants. The number of newspapers suppressed was 12.

In the two years 1917 and 1918 there were 271 armed raids on private houses.

These figures, culled from the columns of a censored Press, are necessarily incomplete.

During all this time the Irish people maintained an attitude of passive resistance. No attacks were made by them upon the bands of ruffians called by Government apologists “the armed forces of the Crown.”

In 1919 there were 13,782 armed raids on private houses, 959 arrests for political offenses, 636 of those arrested being sentenced, 209 courts-martial of civilians, 20 deportations, 335 proclamations suppressing meetings, fairs and markets, 476 armed attacks on unarmed gatherings and individuals, 8 murders of civilians, and 25 suppressions of newspapers.

In 1920, 185 Irish citizens were murdered, and 417 were wounded. These figures do not include casualties in action, civilian casualties arising accidentally from conflicts between British and Republican troops, or these sustained in the pogroms in North-East Ulster.

Speaking at Widnes in December of this year Mr. Arthur Henderson, MP, one of the Labor tools of the British Government, said: “It is actually true to say that life was safer in Brussels during the German occupation than it is now in Dublin, Cork, or Derry. No man is safe, and even women and children run risks of being shot in the streets.”

From 1st of January to 18th of June, 1921, 60 men, 5 women, and 17 children were murdered by reckless and indiscriminate firing, and 144 men, 33 women, and 23 children were wounded, In the same period 131 men were assassinated in or near their homes or whilst in custody, and 24 Irish prisoners of war were executed. Raids, arrests, imprisonments and suppressions have been carried out on such a large scale that even approximately accurate computation is impossible. According to British official figures more than 3,200 Irishmen are interned – all without trial. About 1,500 others are serving sentences of penal servitude or hard labor, and about 1,000 are in custody awaiting trial or interment. Armed raids on private houses are of daily occurrence.

In brief reference to destruction of property may close this fearful record, which, with all its horror, can convey but a faint idea of the torture inflicted upon the brave Irish people. Some of the houses were selected for destruction because their occupants had “lent moral support to the rebel cause!” We shall confine ourselves to the period from January to May of this year. The figures include buildings damaged only, as well as those utterly destroyed: Shops, 417; creameries, 7; farm houses, 165; farm outbuildings, 32; factories and works, 5; crops, 72; halls and clubs, 28; private residences, 233; other premises, 55.

But to return to our fair-weather revolutionaries of the literary world. America, of course, supplied many examples of literary apostasy. Suffice it to name but one – Jack London. The list of names of members of this unholy fraternity could be considerably extended by additions from many other countries, but none other need be mentioned than that of Herr Karl Kautsky, whose disgraceful attack on Communism and Communists occasioned the present pamphlet.

Until recently those who professed to be Socialists could have been divided into two sections – on the one hand, the followers of Marx, and on the other, those who, without reading Marx, were convinced in some mysterious way, that he was “all wrong.” Now, however, the position of affairs might be accurately described by paraphrasing the statement of an English statesman, famous in his day, so as to make it read, “We are all Marxians now.” Kautsky’s facility in quoting Marxian Scripture in an attempt to justify his reactionary attitude, reminds one of the dexterity attributed to the Enemy of Man in handling Christian texts to suit his own purposes.

And thus is Marx pressed into the service of the counter-revolution. Frederick Engels, writing in of the demonstrations then being held in Europe and America in favor of an eight-hour working day, and commenting on the fact that the proletarians of all kinds were indeed united, said wistfully, “Were Marx but with me to see it with his own eyes!” It was an interesting, if unprofitable, occupation to speculate on what Engels would have said on hearing of such a perversion of Marx as Kautsky and his imitators have been guilty of.

It is when one considers cases of this kind that one turns eagerly, if somewhat irrationally, to solutions such as the pathological one already referred to. The author of this pamphlet, however, has no faith in theories of this kind, as the reader will discover before he has read very many pages.

In answer to Kautsky’s condemnation of the Bolsheviks for using violence against their opponents, Radek cites some of the bloody deeds of the ruling classes in their all too successful attempts to crush the workers. Like most people who know something of the horrors perpetrated upon working classes and subject nations by their rulers since the far oft days when the suppression of a workers’ rebellion was signalized by the crucifixion, along the great military high-ways of the Roman Empire, of captured slaves, whose writhing bodies were intended to have a deterrent effect upon any who dared to think of interfering with the “rights of private property,” down to the cowardly butchery of the dying James Connolly and his gallant comrades, and the massacres of the Russian workers by the hirelings of Entente Capitalism – like most such people Karl Radek has little patience with men like Kautsky who condemn the victorious Russian workers for employing “terrorist methods.” The cowardly subterfuge that violence is indefensible, at all times and under all circumstances, is not calculated to disturb the capitalist governments of the world, which have no intention of scrapping their armies and their navies and their air fleets, and which are quite willing to suffer the peculiar propaganda, with its implied censure upon themselves, to continue, for the sake of its possible effect upon the proletariat. They realize the power of the “persuasive eloquence of example,” and their appreciation of this power has heightened considerably since the Russian workers, sword in hand, cut their way through the tangle of feudal and capitalist impediments that beset their path, and shook out the folds of the Red Flag over the palace of the Czars. This, in the eyes of the capitalist lords of the earth, is pre-eminently an example to be avoided by the workers of other countries; and to dissuade the latter from adopting the same course as the Russian proletariat, they are freely utilizing the services of Socialist renegades like Karl Kautsky.

The attitude of opponents of violence, who place assassin and victim, garrotter and garrotted, counter-revolutionary hireling and Red Guardsman, Black-and-Tanner and Sinn Fein soldier, on the same moral level – and that a low one – is really Christian Science turned inside out. The Christian Scientist can see no evil: the pacifist can see no good. This is clearly trifling with the question, and it is difficult to believe that those who voice this peculiar opinion, and whose power of discriminating between right and wrong is not utterly atrophied, are really sincere.

From the circumstance that the capitalists are prepared to adopt so many and so diverse means as they are more or less openly employing to avert the coming proletarian revolution, it may be inferred that they believe that the term of their long dominion is approaching. And every man and woman who has the interests of the human family at heart will sincerely hope that their apprehension is well founded!


Patrick Lavin
July, 1921

Last updated on 18.10.2011