Karl Radek

Ruhr and Hamburg


Source: The Communist International, 1923, No. 25, pp. 47–51.
Transcription: Ted Crawford.
HTML Mark-up: 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.

By the time these lines reach the reader, four months will have passed since the opening of the war in the Ruhr. Then four months of war between a great army of occupation and a half million of unarmed proletarians provide the representatives of capital with material for expansive arguments, which contain elements of truth according to the camp from which they come. The German bourgeoisie in their speeches exalt the moral force of the resistance which the German working class are putting up against armed French Imperialism. The French bourgeoisie sneer at the German workers for defending their own slavery, and see in the events in the Ruhr confirmation of the extent to which the German workers are still under the spell of nationalism. The Communists too must admit that the struggle taking place on the Ruhr gives them also matter for serious thought.

It is not true that this struggle led to the discovery of a new weapon which, as the “New Leader,” the organ of the British Independent Labour Party, asserts, is proving victorious over bayonets and machine guns. The “New Leader” makes a virtue of necessity because it will not confess that the working class in Germany is incapable itself of undertaking the defence of its country. Because they will not confess that the workers in the Entente countries, with the exception of the Communists, have left the German workers in the lurch, the British I.L.P. and Mr. Brailsford in his “New Leader,” must sing the praises of the new weapon. Is it really a new weapon? Mr. Brailsford knows better than we do that his assertion is untrue.

In India, the land which Mr. Brailsford’s country is oppressing, we have seen during the course of many years, wave after wave of passive resistance pass over the country. At one moment a boycott of goods is declared, at another, factories are closed down as a mark of protest. The enslaved Indians, who have not the power to rise against British domination, which they hate with all their hearts, declare war against it by means of passive boycott. They say to the British rulers: “You cannot compel us to buy your goods by force of arms.”

By their passive resistance the German workers demonstrate that coal cannot be dug with bayonets. The German petty bourgeoisie, by refusing to sell to the French, demonstrate to the latter that they are hated in the land. Germany, reduced from the lofty position of an Imperialist nation to that of a Capitalist colony; Germany at one time bristling with arms and now disarmed and handed over to an Imperialist rival armed to the teeth, now proclaims a “revolution with folded aims.” The passive resistance on the Ruhr is not an advance in the proletarian struggle. It is merely all an incident in the fact that Germany has been reduced to a colony.

Passive resistance cannot be an all-conquering weapon. The German workers are fighting, supported by the German Capitalists, at the expense of the State. That is to say, that the millions which the German Capitalists are able to distribute to the workers in the form of unemployment grants, in spite of fact that the factories and mines are working only to half the capacity, are provided by the vast mass of taxpayers. The German bourgeoisie who advanced to the State from their own pockets a paltry 12½ million dollars do not spare the pence of the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie when it is a question of defraying the expenditure incurred in defending their 10 per cent. share in the Franco-German Coal Syndicate, which is contested by the French Capitalists. The passive resistance of the German workers can be continued as long as the bourgeoisie continues to pay wages in the Ruhr at the price of the future deterioration of the conditions of the workers. When the reformists declare that a new weapon of victory has been discovered on the Ruhr, they are merely lauding the aristocracy of Sparta, who, in the moment of danger, armed their helots to fight for them.

The passive resistance of the masses in India is a revolutionary factor. It leads the Indian masses to the consciousness of the community of their interests. It mobilises them for the highest form of struggle, for the future revolt.

Can we say this of the position in the Ruhr? If things depended entirely upon the Social-Democrats, passive resistance would be the only weapon of the proletariat of the Ruhr. Cowards in the face of their own bourgeoisie, they are also opposed to a resolute struggle against foreign Imperialism. When the great prophet of International Menshevism, Herr Kautsky, wished to put the Communists of Germany to the supreme test, he asked them with wrinkled brow: “Do you prepare to solve the Ruhr question in a peaceful manner or by resorting to arms?” In the toothless mouth of Kautsky this does not mean that to-day – April 1923 – a revolutionary war against world capital is impossible, but for all that we shall untiringly prepare for it, but means down with those who employ any other weapons except the invincible arguments of Herr Kautsky The passive resistance in the Ruhr bears extremely contradictory features even in the camp of the proletariat. Side by side with the rebels who say: “We have not capitulated to the German militarists, we fought against German Imperialism, we therefore refuse to capitulate to French bayonets” – side by side with the revolutionary spirit which, to-day resisting the French bayonets, intends to-morrow to insist that the mines shall belong neither to the French nor the German Capitalists, but to the proletariat – side by side with them there is also the German slave who dare not throw off the German yoke for fear of exchanging it for the French yoke. For that reason the question as to whether passive resistance against French Imperialism in the Ruhr is destined to develop into an active proletarian struggle not only against the alien invaders, but also for the capture of the factories by the proletariat, will be decided by history. The leader in the Menshevist asses’ choir, Abramovitch, in the “Sozialisticheski Vestnik” sneeringly asks the Comintern: “In what way does your practical activity differ from that of the representatives of the Second and Two-and a-half Internationals whom you despise, so much?” We do not know what Mr. Ahraiuovitch calls PRACTICAL activity. Perhaps this typical hater of violence, in this instance, regards as PRACTICAL only the kind of fighting, in which ribs are broken. Without evading the issue, however, we say frankly: If we are asked whether the Comintern by its own efforts can bring about a revolution, and defeat the enemy, we say, unfortunately, no. The forces of the isolated Communist International are inadequate for that. It cannot fight for the proletariat, it can only fight with the proletariat. The fact that the majority of the proletariat are still in the camp of the pacifists, i.e., in the camp of the Menshevists, hangs like a millstone round the necks of the revolutionary section of the International proletariat, and this drag cannot be immediately overcome.

That is why the Comintern alone cannot conduct a revolutionary struggle in the Ruhr. It can only make preparations for the fight; and when International Menshevism asks sneeringly in what way we differ from them, we say: We differ from you in that you make preparations for and organise the capitulation of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, while we make preparations for the impending battle. It is true that our successes in this direction as yet are inconsiderable. The French proletariat, thanks to your policy of civil peace during the war, has been bled white, and although it has attempted economic strikes in connection with the struggle in the Ruhr, it is not strong enough to link up the strikes with the political struggle against Poincaré and his predatory attack on the Ruhr. The Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals are engaged in the noble task of devising reasonable platforms upon which Monsieur Poincaré may unite with the bourgeoisie. They sabotage the first attempts made by the Comintern and Profitern at fraternisation between the French and German proletariat. History will record the fact that while the agents of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals journey from country to country in the endeavour to find a basis upon which Monsieur Poincaré and Herr Cuno mar become reconciled, the German and French Social-Democrats exert all their efforts to prevent the arrangement of a joint revolutionary demonstration of the German and French proletariat in Essen.

The Social-Democrats arranged a Unity Conference for Easter. On the day commemorating the resurrection of the legendary revolutionary, they gathered together to celebrate the resurrection of the International. This arrangement was made at the Hague Congress at which the new International was buried before it managed to be born. But, thanks to their policy, war was revived. Monsieur Poincaré sent his Zouaves to the Ruhr. While the French machine guns were merrily ticking out Monsieur Poincaré’s opinion of the Second International for the benefit of the Essen workers, while Herr Severing’s Zouaves in Mühlheim were piercing the bodies of the proletarians there in order to convince them of the significance of the democracy advocated by the Social-Democratic, people’s and Centre Parties, it is somewhat of an anomaly to play wedding marches in Hamburg. Nevertheless, the marriage of the Second and Two-and-a-half Internationals has been fixed for Whitsun. But “Whitsun has gone and Marlborough does not return.” Herr Friedrich Adler makes this melancholy admission in his gloomy speech on the occupation of the Ruhr and the International. This hero, whose whole reputation rests on a revolver shot, this founder of the Two-and-a-Half International, which was to serve as the bridge between the Second and Third Internationals, this man who formerly was almost a supporter of the Soviet Dictatorship of the Proletariat, declares in the name of his bankrupt firm: “If things develop into unity between the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals, as far as we are concerned it is not a. marriage of love, but a marriage of reason” Of course, there is nothing in the marriage that has any appearance to lose; but even as far as reason is concerned, poor henpecked Adler has little to boast about. He was obliged to confess that the French and Belgian Socialists had not yet cast all their skin of social patriotism and still cling to the legend that annexationist madness is a. specifically German disease. This came out in striking relief at the Amsterdam Conference on the 26th January, convened by the Profintern and in which representatives of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals participated. The latter wished to add to the resolution the words: “The French metal industrialists, in striving to make the Ruhr an object of their exploitation, are committing the same outrage as that committed by the German metal industrialists when they prolonged the war in order to obtain possession of Briey and Longwy.” This addition, which even so was extremely modified as compared with the original draft, was hotly resisted by the Belgian representative, who under no circumstances would admit of any parallel between the German annexationists arid the French rulers.

In reporting on the Belgian Party Conference this representative stated that the national point of view was most clearly expressed in the speeches of Boulange, Destrée, Hubin, and Pierard, and with regard to Vanderverde’s resolution, he said that it “showed the extent to which he still reckoned with the needs of opportunism in that he placed the problem of Belgian Reparations above that of the occupation of the Ruhr, and was unable to rise to the heights of genuine Internationalism.” Speaking of the Manifesto addressed by the Amsterdam Conference of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals to the League of Nations, Adler said: “The reason why the Socialists in the victorious countries ascribe such importance to the Manifesto addressed to the Capitalist Imperialist International, which the League of Nations is, is the weakness of the proletarian International.”

This speech of our hero, can and must be supplemented by the speech of Fimmen, who felt it his duty to tell the German trade-unions that they must fight German Capitalism: and for this bold declaration he was laughed to scorn by the official organ of the German Federation of Trade Unions. The amalgamation of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals at The Hague will still further weaken the latter and subordinate the anaemic internationalism of the Adlers to the full-blooded social-patriotism of the Renaudels, Vanderveldes, Hendersons and Wels. The gentlemen of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals are not innocent maidens wedded by avaricious parents to wealthy senile old men. They are selling themselves, and the senile old men to whom they are selling themselves are a firm slowly but surely moving towards bankruptcy. In their defence the bad business men of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals at best can only say that they risk nothing, as they have already lost first their virginity and then their capital in the war.

The International working class is sinking into the trough of the wave of revolution and counter-revolution. Soon the tenth year of its bankruptcy will have been completed. That day does not coincide with the resurrection of the proletariat. But at least it gives us the right to say that the front ranks of the international proletariat have learnt the lesson of the bankruptcy of the 4th of August.

Last updated on 18.10.2011