Karl Radek

The Historical Significance of
the Trial of the Social Revolutionaries

(17 June 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 50, 17 June 1922, pp. 369–371.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). 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 Social Democratic press of all shades continues to carry on the concert which it began with the information that its accomplices, the Russian Social Revolutionaries, had been brought before the tribunal of the Russian working class to answer for all the crimes which they have committed against the Russian Revolution.

In South Africa, the workers were routed and shot down; the mining barons caused them to be arrested in hundreds and maltreated in the prisons. There was no outcry over this. The American press is full of reports concerning the White Terror which has again broken out in Chicago and the coal mining districts. There is no outcry over this. In Esthonia, the leader of the Esthonian Communists, Comrade Kingisepp, was shot 24 hours after his arrest in accordance with the sentence of a “democratic” court, for the sole reason that he was a Communist. In democratic Poland the Communist Peasant Deputy, Dombal, in spite of his immunity as a deputy, was thrown into prison and maltreated and will now be trial upon the ground of confessions which the Polish police extorted by means of torture. All this is of no concern to the guardians of democracy and the interests of the working class in the camp of the Second and 2½ Internationals. Their eyes are only centred upon Moscow where the leaders of their party are to be tried (what a terrible enormity!), these leaders who sold the March Revolution of 1917 to the bourgeoisie and the Entente, prepared the way for every white government, organised assassinations of the leaders of the Russian working class, daily propagated the armed struggle against the Soviet Government, against the same Government of whom the manifesto of the Amsterdam International declared that its downfall would mean a hard blow for the international proletariat and a victory for the international counter-revolution.

The press of the Second International has not gone to great expense in order to justify its howls somehow. The Noske party, which has on its conscience the murdering of 20,000 workers, which today still keeps hundreds and hundreds of Communist workers m prison, declares concisely and briefly that it is imperative not to persecute any Socialists. Enough said! The British Labour Party whose leader was a member of the government which caused the Irish Syndicalist Connolly to be shot; the British Labour Party whose leader Thomas had recourse to the bourgeois courts against the Communists, is also opposed on principle to the persecution of “Socialists”.

On the other hand there is the 2½ International and its affiliated section, the Independent Socialist Party of Germany (U.S.P.D.). Germany was once the blessed country of the best beer and of Marxism. The war hit both the beer and the Marxism very hard; of both there now remains only the color. Now, almost four years after the conclusion of the war, the quality of the German beer has greatly improved, but the Marxism of the Social Democratic party still remains war-adulterated, whether promulgated by Lensch as chief editor of Stinnes’ newspaper or by Herr Levi, the renegade Communist in the U.S.P.D. press. This quasi-Marxist who now will probably end his political career as the distinguished Marxist of the U.S.P.D., publishes in his Weg which he calls Unsere Weg in which, in the place of Clara Zetkin, Toni Sender will now be his comrade-in-arms, and in the Freiheit an article, which boasts to have found out the historical significance of the trial of the S.R.’s.

In brief, Levi’s brilliant idea is as follows:

The Soviet Government was a workers’ government; but inasmuch as the peasants are stronger than the workers in Russia, it had definitely to decide to become a peasants’ government; and as the peasants are a petty bourgeois class, it not only had to abolish the beginnings of Communist organization but had to make concessions to European capital, and since (as Marxism teaches) economic concessions must be followed by political concessions, the Bolsheviks are thus compelled to proceed to persecute the labor movement. The Social Revolutionaries are now the party of the proletariat and the Soviet Government plays the same role towards them as Thiers and Co., played towards the vanquished Communards.

This trash is served up with sundry quotations from Marx’s 18th Brumaire. Of course, Marx is no longer able to defend himself.

We will not put the patience of the reader to too severe a test in refuting all this learned nonsense. It suffices only to asks, “What was the Social Revolutionary Party in the past and what is it at present?” When the Social Revolutionary Party was founded it protested against Marxist orthodoxy which considered the working class the leading revolutionary element. The S.R.’s could on no account be a working class party; they always declared that the intellectuals, the peasants, and the workers were equal revolutionary forces, and their greatest ambition was to be a peasant party. The Russian Marxists, regardless of tendency, Martov and Plekhanov as well as Lenin and Trotzky at the time of the formation of the party characterized it as a petty bourgeois revolutionary party. As such, as primarily a party of petty bourgeois intellectuals supported by the peasants, the Social Revolutionaries survived the revolution of 1905 and 1906. But the second revolution, which found them in a condition of complete dissolution, has shown that, be the critics of Marxism never so sharp, they are worsted by historical reality. In the second revolution millions of peasants gathered round the Social Revolutionaries. They were consequently the strongest party of the March revolution. They suffered bankruptcy mainly because during the storm and stress of the first eight months they proved themselves to be not only an anti-proletarian, but also an anti-peasant party. While they were in power, they resisted with all their strength the solution of the agrarian problem; they fed the peasants with promises of what they would get after the war, although they knew that the demobilized unarmed peasant would be at the mercy of the despotism of the White Guards organized by the Junkers. They cast the peasants into prison if they ventured to touch the property of the Junkers.

All this occurred because the Social Revolutionary Party, whose leaders are intellectuals, was through its petty bourgeois nationalism bound to the bourgeoisie and the Junkers, and through them to world capital. The imperialist robber war was won by the Allies, by the Paris, London and New York Stock Exchanges. The leaders of the S.R. served this cause which bound them to world capital and made the early terrorists, the former Peasant Socialists, the agents of world capital. When the time came for them to pay their bill, when the mass of Russian workers and Russian peasants overthrow the Kerensky Government, the Convention of the Social Revolutionary Party displayed something like an understanding of the cause that led to the downfall of this Party, once so strong. But one lucid interval does not make an habitual drunkard a healthy man. The Party of the Social Revolutionaries did not recover. The hatred that the dethroned intelligentsia bore the proletarian revolution on account of their democratic illusions held them fast in the grip of the counter-revolution, although they could not help but see that, as a Party that encouraged foreign intervention, they trampled their nationalism underfoot and became the agents of foreign capital which was striving to make a colony of Russia. And when the SR.’s as the Party of intervention became the Party of national enslavement, they repeatedly used the democratic aims of their policy as the stirrup for the most outspoken reaction of the monarchist Junker elements. In the name of the restoration of democracy they allied themselves with the Czecho-Slovaks and with the Koltchak officers who in turn threw them on the dung hill of history. Arrested by Koltchak, the leaders of the Social Revolutionaries accepted an indemnity and disappeared for Paris where they continued to conspire with French imperialism, as if their democratic virginity had not been soiled time and time again by the virtuous Koltchak Cossacks in the gutters of Siberia. In Archangelsk, they overthrew the Soviet Government with the aid of Allied troops, only to be overthrown themselves by the English and Russian generals. And in spite of all these lessons, they renewed their policy of coalition with the bourgeoisie at the Paris Conference in 1921. Although the SR.’s in Russia opposed this policy of their foreign leaders, because its unnecessary frankness compromised them, the coalitionary Social Revolutionaries, the Kerenskys and Avksentievs, are today still members and leader of their Party. And it takes the colossal ignorance of a Levi and his impudent assumption of the ignorance of his readers, to attempt to portray these Girondists of the Russian Revolution as its Montagnards, nay, as its Enragés.


The attempt to represent the enemies of the Russian Commune as Communards and the Russian Communards as Paris [?] only goes to prove that not only the bourgeoisie but also the renegades of Socialism, use the press as a means of besting [?] the working class. But this confirmation does not remove the relation that exists between the S.R. trial and the present phase of the Russian Revolution. The Soviet Government would have tried the S. R. leaders in 1918, 1919 or 1920 if it had had the evidence which is now in its hands, thanks to the fact that some of these S.R.’s, who at the command of their leaders had conspired against the Soviet Government and organized terrorist acts, were disgusted by the policy of their Party and the hypocrisy of its leaders, left it and told the truth abuot the activities of this prostituted counter-revolutionary Party. But in 1922, the Soviet Government is particularly bound to conduct the trial against the Social Revolutionaries and to make the truth about it and its activities known to the Russian people. It is the duty of the Soviet Government to do so for the very reason of the extraordinary circumstances under which the Russian working class and the Soviet Government are now fighting. Herr Levi and the Berlin Freiheit say “Because the Soviet Government is making economic concessions to capitalism, and because it is also compelled to make political concessions, it now proceeds against the Social Revolutionaries as against the representatives of awakening Socialism and the awakening working class.

But the truth of the matter is as follows: because the Soviet Government is compelled by the slow development of the world revolution to make economic concessions to capitalism, and because it wants to retain power in the hands of the working class, because it refuses to cede a single atom of this power to the Russian or to the world bourgeoisie it must grasp the sword against the counter revolutionaries who are masquerading under the guise of petty bourgeois Socialism, in the effort to open the gates of Russia to the rule of the bourgeoisie.

World capitalism fought for three long years under the battle cry of “democracy” in the attempt to overthrow the Soviet Government. The English, French and American capitalist barons knew only too well that in view of the condition of Russian traffic routes and means of transportation, and the fact that the illiterate peasantry with its local church interests and institutes an overwhelming majority in Russia, the creation of a parliament in reality would only have meant the creation of a totally uncontrolled central government in the hands of a handful [?] of intellectuals, officers, and stock exchange sharks in so far as the Junkers and capitalists would have not preferred to remove the screen of a parliament altogether and announce their dictatorship openly. The weapons of the Red Army that swept the Russian soil of the armies of foreign intervention and of the White Guards rendered the open pursuit of this goal impossible. What is more, the agents of the foreign countries in Russia were convinced that the Russian peasant cling[s] fast to the Soviet System because the peasant sees in it the form of his self-management. Thus we see how Milioukoff, one of the shrewdest leaders of the Russian counter-revolution saw during the Kronstadt revolt, that even the rebellious peasant youth wanted to retain the Soviets and substituted for the old slogan, the “Constituent Assembly”, the new rallying cry “Soviets without Communists”. Should the Communist Party fall the most faithful proletarian and peasant revolutionary fighters would fall with it. Without the spiritual link of the Communist Party the masses would disintegrate and fall an easy prey to the counter-revolution and the “Soviets without Communists” would be scattered to the seven winds like sand, only to make place for the rule of foreign capitalism under the guise of democracy. The only way to establish this dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and of capitalism in Russia is to aid the petty bourgeois counter-revolutionary parties with all the means available. This task of first weakening the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia and then overthrowing it has now became the historic function of the petty bourgeois counter-revolutionaries, and they are fulfilling this function. The ones unscrupulous, fully conscious of the master they serve; the others blinded by illusions, ignorant of what they are doing. For after all there are such Social Revolutionaries as the latter. There is a certain kind of superficial woman, who, after a life full of joy and pleasure, turns extremely pious and virtuous, and completely forgets the years and decades in which she served totally different gods. In political life it matters not whether a deed is committed with good or bad intentions and in this light the counter-revolutionaries suffering from democratic illusions are really more dangerous than those free from these illusions, because they cloak their dirty counter-revolutionary work with a certain inner pathos. Who can believe that the same Social Revolutionaries, who under the rule of the bourgeoisie fought desperately against the strikes as against acts of “anarchy”, are today acting in good faith, when they take advantage of the congestion that now marks food transportation (caused by themselves through their revolts and sabotage) to call upon the workers to strike, although they know only too well that the misery of the Russian worker which was caused by the intervention – blockade, sabotage of the intellectuals and capitalist circulation can only be reduced by increased production and through the reinforcement of the power of the proletarian state. Who would be so credulous as to believe that the same Social Revolutionaries who considered it a crime and an act of insanity to expropriate capitalists and nationalize industry, are now acting in good faith when they represent the concessions made by us to capitalism (the introduction of leases is of course to be taken as such) as an alienation from Socialism? Who is so blind as not see the crass contradiction in the howlings of these people.

“The concessions to capitalism”, they shout, “are dangers”, and demand at the same time freedom of the press and of organization for the bourgeoisie and even advocate bourgeois democracy. The bourgeoisie is passing through the period of its original accumulation. The speculator is dominated by the single thought of how to circumvent the measures by means of which the Soviet government seeks to keep in check the newly excited appetite of capitalism. The political weapon of the Nepman (speculators are so called in Russia from the abbreviation N.E.P. — new economic policy) is corruption, and the bribing of hungry Soviet officials. The petty bourgeois intellectuals as well as those intellectuals connected with the bourgeoisie in their capacity of lawyers, engineers, etc., and finally the openly counter-revolutionary elements, constitute the vanguard of the bourgeoisie. Before the Nepman becomes so strong as to demand political concessions from the Soviet Government on the ground of his economic strength this demand is already made for him by the S.R’s and by the Mensheviks m the name of “Democracy” and “Socialism”, nay, even in the name of the workers’ interests, which they themselves have time and again trampled under foot. And the engineer, the lawyer, the doctor and the agriculturist make these same demands in the name of the work they do. The growing impudence displayed by the so-called petty bourgeois Socialists, is only a part of the growing audacity of the liberal vanguard, the bourgeoisie, which is strengthened by the new economic policy, a process that is necessary until the revolution succeeds in at least one big industrial country and opens the door for the influx of new economic forces into proletarian Russia. The Soviet Government is fighting with all its energy against every attempt of the bourgeoisie to raise its head. Everybody remembers how last year, when the Cadet gentlemen were permitted to form an organization for the purpose of getting bread for the starving, they attempted to assert themselves as a political power. The Soviet Government rapped them sharply on the knuckles and the S.R. gentlemen and the Mensheviks protested. The bourgeois circles of Russia look upon the S.R. trial as an attack upon their outposts and they are right. For instance, the Berlin Rul, the leading organ of the Cadets, voices its protest against this trial no less than the Second and the 2½ Internationals. Such is the historical significance of the trial of the Social Revolutionaries, which the fools of the world counter-revolution, the Levis and the Crispiens, are trying to mask in costumes borrowed from the history of proletarian tragedy. And in order that the Russian revolution shall not suffer the same fate that befell the attempts of the Enragés, the Babeufs and the Communards, the Soviet Government is holding its sword drawn against the petty bourgeois wing of the counter- revolution which serves as the outpost of the capitalist and Junker wing, and which seeks to transform the stronghold of the world proletariat into an arena for a new civil war.

Last updated on 27 December 2019