Leon Trotsky

Terrorism and Communism

In Place of an Epilogue

This book appears at the moment of the Second Congress of the Communist International. The revolutionary movement of the proletariat has made, during the months that have passed since the First Congress, a great step forward. The positions of the official, open social-patriots have everywhere been undermined. The ideas of Communism acquire an ever wider extension. Official dogmatized Kautskianism has been gradually compromised. Kautsky himself, within that “Independent” Party which he created, represents to-day a not very authoritative and a fairly ridiculous figure.

None the less, the intellectual struggle in the ranks of the international working class is only now blazing up as it should. If, as we just said, dogmatized Kautskianism is breathing its last days, and the leaders of the intermediate Socialist parties are hastening to renounce it, still Kautskianism as a bourgeois attitude, as a tradition of passivity, as political cowardice, still plays an enormous part in the upper ranks of the working class organizations of the world, in no way excluding parties tending to the Third International, and even formally adhering to it.

The Independent Party in Germany, which has written on its banner the watchword of the dictatorship of the proletariat, tolerates in its ranks the Kautsky group, all the efforts of which are devoted theoretically to compromise and misrepresent the dictatorship of the proletariat in the shape of its living expression – the Soviet regime. In conditions of civil war, such a form of co-habitation is conceivable only and to such an extent as far and as long as the dictatorship of the proletariat represents for the leaders of the “Independent” Social Democracy a noble aspiration, a vague protest against the open and disgraceful treachery of Noske, Ebert, Scheideniann and others, and – last but not least – a weapon of electoral and parliamentary demagogy.

The vitality of vague Kautskianism is most clearly seen in the example of the French Longuetists. Jean Longuet himself has most sincerely convinced himself, and has for long been attempting to convince others, that he is marching in step with us, and that only Clemenceau’s censorship and the calumnies of our French friends Loriot, Monatte, Rosmer, and others hinder our comradeship in arms. Yet is it sufficient to make oneself acquainted with any parliamentary speech of Longuet’s to realize that the gulf separating him from us at the present moment is possibly still wider than at the first period of the imperialist war? The revolutionary problems now arising before the international proletariat have become more serious, more immediate, more gigantic, more direct, more definite, than five or six years ago; and the politically reactionary character of the Longuetists, the parliamentary representatives of eternal passivity, has become more impressive than ever before, in spite of the fact that formally they have returned to the fold of parliamentary opposition.

The Italian Party, which is within the Third International, is not at all free from Kautskianism. As far as the leaders are concerned, a very considerable part of them bear their internationalist honors only as a duty and as an imposition from below. In 1914-1915, the Italian Socialist Party found it infinitely more easy than did the other European parties to maintain an attitude of opposition to the war, both because Italy entered the war nine months later than other Countries, and particularly because the international position of Italy created in it even a powerful bourgeois group (Giolittians in the widest sense of the word) which remained to the very last moment hostile to Italian intervention in the war.

These conditions allowed the Italian Socialist Party, without the fear of a very profound internal crisis to refuse war credits to the Government, and generally to remain outside the interventionist block. But by this very fact the process of internal cleansing of the party proved to be unquestionably delayed. Although an integral part of the Third International, the Italian Socialist Party to this very day can put up with Turati and his supporters in its ranks. This very powerful group – unfortunately we find it difficult to define to any extent of accuracy its numerical significance in the parliamentary group, in the press, in the party, and in the trade union organizations – represents a less pedantic, not so demagogic, more declamatory and lyrical, but none the less malignant opportunism – a form of romantic Kautskianism.

A passive attitude to the Kautskian, Longuetist, Turatist groups is usually cloaked by the argument that the time for revolutionary activity in the respective countries has not yet arrived. But such a formulation of the question is absolutely false. Nobody demands from Socialists striving for Communism that they should appoint a revolutionary outbreak for a definite week or month in the near future. What the Third International demands of its supporters is a recognition, not in words but in deeds, that civilized humanity has entered a revolutionary epoch; that all the capitalist countries are speeding towards colossal disturbances and an open class war; and that the task of the revolutionary representatives of the proletariat is to prepare for that inevitable and approaching war the necessary spiritual armory and buttress of organization. The internationalists who consider it possible at the present time to collaborate with Kautsky, Longuet and Turati, to appear side by side with them before the working masses, by that very act renounce in practice the work of preparing in ideas and organization for the revolutionary rising of the proletariat, independently of whether it comes a month or a year sooner or later. In order that the open rising of the proletarian masses should not fritter itself away in belated searches for paths and leadership, we must see to it to-day that wide circles of the proletariat should even now learn to grasp all the immensity of the tasks before them, and of their irreconcilability with all variations of Kautskianism and opportunism.

A truly revolutionary, i.e., a Communist wing, must set itself up in opposition, in face of the masses, to all the indecisive, half-hearted groups of doctrinaires, advocates, and panegyrists of passivity, strengthening its positions first of all spiritually and then in the sphere of organization – open, half-open, and purely conspirative. The moment of formal split with the open and disguised Kautskians, or the moment of their expulsion from the ranks of the working-class party, is, of course, to be determined by considerations of usefulness from the point of view of circumstances; but all the policy of real Communists must turn in that direction.

That is why it seems to me that this book is still not out of date – to my great regret, if not as an author, at any rate as a Communist.

June 17, 1920

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Last updated on: 24.12.2006