L. Trotzky

The October Revolution
and the IV. World Congress
of the Communist International

Speech by Comrade Trotzky at the Session
of the Moscow Party Functionaries

(October 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 95, 3 November 1922, pp. 727–729.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2021. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

Comrades! The fourth congress of the Communist International will assemble on the fifth anniversary of the Soviet Power. [1]

An anniversary is of course, purely an item in the calendar and events do not occur according to the calendar. The fifth anniversary of the Soviet Power constitutes no landmark denoting the end of an historical period, the less so in our revolutionary epoch when everything is undergoing a process of change, when everything is in a state of flux and cannot for the present assume a final form. Nevertheless, every intelligent person and particularly every Communist should strive to consider intelligently the recent past and to analyze the actual situation presented by this formal date in the calendar, the fifth adversary of the Soviet Power, and of the fourth congress of the Communist International.

I recently had the opportunity of being present at a session a factory fraction of the Party. Here a comrade put the question to me: “In which country would the revolution be most favourable from the point of view of Communist interests?” I thought a little and replied that from this point of view the revolution would be most advantageous in the United States. This country is, in the economic sense the most independent country. Agriculture and industry so balance each other, that the country would be able in the event of a savage blockade to carry on a perfectly independent economic life. In addition it is the most wealthy country in the world and has at its disposal the best industrial technique and almost half of the world’s gold supply.

If, therefore, the proletariat of this country were to capture power, the material foundations, the organizatory and technical prerequisites for the establishment of Socialism would be extremely favourable.

The second country in line is Great Britain. But Russia, though she does not occupy the last position in this respect, (because there is also Asia and Africa) she at any rate occupies the last position within the borders of Europe. Yet, if we examine the actual state of affairs, we are compelled to say, that the political pre-requisites in this most powerful and leading capitalist country, that is, the pre-requisites for the creation of an appropriate class party are lacking the most. In our country history began to unfold the scroll of revolution, and we were compelled during these five years to labour at Socialist construction in the economically backward country, under the continued domination of capital, which was deadly hostile to us, in the economically advanced capitalist states.

This is a fundamental fact, and from this arose the terrible bitterness of our civil war.

The Lessons of the Russian Revolution

If we wish to speak of the lessons of the Russian Revolution, we must in the first place mention with pride our Party, which gave the most magnificent example to the proletarians of all countries, of how to fight for power and how the conquered power is to be defended by most stringent measures – with the help of the hardest, most merciless dictatorship if need be hesitating before no step that will destroy the bourgeois hypocrisy, when it is a question of retaining the state power in the. hands of the proletariat.

The workers of all countries must in the next few years learn from the teachings of the Russian Revolution. Whether we have or have not made mistakes in the civil war (of course, one can find mistakes if one seeks), we have left the classical part of our revolutionary activity behind us. As to our economic activity we often spoke of mistakes which necessitated concessions, – the one great concession called the New Economic Policy. The fact that at first we advanced steadily forward, then retreated, and are now digging ourselves in in definite positions, confuses the perspective, not only of our enemies but also of many of our friends. Journalists who are well disposed towards us and many European and American Communists mentioned at the journey of our delegates to Genoa as well as today, that much has changed in Moscow, that it has become very similar to a European or American city, and they ask what guarantee is there that we Communists will make a halt on the road of concessions and lead the development in the direction of Communism and not in that of capitalism? Upon superficial observation it would appear as if the Socialist gains of the first period were now in some way disappearing automatically and as if there were no evidence of those forces which are capable of holding them fast.

But Comrades, the question can be reversed. Let us forget for a moment that previously we proceeded along the way of so-called War Communism and then went back to our present position. Let us compare the present position with the position on October 25th, 1917. If our foreign friends and the comrades of Europe and America ask us this question, then we can reply as follows. The railways, mines, factories, workshops and a very great portion of the land was at that time in the hands of private owners. Today, all the railways, the overwhelming majority, or at least all important factories and workshops, all valuable mineral resources are in the hands of the State, in which the working class governs, supported by the mass of the peasants. That is the result which we see after five years of our rule. We advanced and we retreated, but the result is that the most important means of production in industry and a considerable portion of the agricultural means of production are under the immediate administration of the Workers’ State.

What, however, were the causes of the retreat? This question is very important, as the fact of the retreat is calculated to obscure the perspective. How do you picture to yourselves the process of nationalizing the means of production and the process of organizing Socialism. Our teachers in all our old books, and we too in our own books, repeatedly said and wrote, that the working class, after taking over the state power, would carry out the process of nationalization step by step, beginning with the most essential means of production. Does this rule remain in force today? Most certainly. At the fourth congress which will consider the Communist program, the question whether the working class, when it takes over power in England or France, shall destroy the organization apparatus of the technical means of commerce and set in its place a universal method of accounting, must be answered in the negative. The working class must employ the bourgeois methods of payment, of calculation, the methods of the exchanges, of the banks, and only gradually, in accordance with its technical strength and capacity, pass to a Socialist economic system.

In this lies the greatest difference between the Russian proletarian revolution and the future proletarian revolution, for example in America. The working class there, will have enormous difficulties to overcome until the capture of the state power, but when it will have seized power, the pressure on all the fronts on which we had to fight will be much less, because in our country with a very strong petty bourgeoisie and a very strong peasantry, there were quite other prerequisites to the revolution, and because our revolution took the bourgeoisie by surprise. We not only disarmed the bourgeoisie before the 25th of October and in the night from the 25th to the 26th, but in the three years after the 25th of October. The bourgeoisie, the land owners, and the officers only saw the real situation after the 25th of October and began a war against us with the aid of European capital. In Europe this process is going on quite differently than with us. In Europe the organization and arming of the counter-revolutionary forces – side by side with the preparation of the Communist parties for this struggle – is now going on, and the struggle will be much harder, – not after, but before the 25th of October.

Of course, Socialism receives its practical as well as theoretical justification when it is able to furnish labor power for a greater quantity of products to satisfy its social needs than capitalism was able to. And it is a fact that Soviet Russia is one of the poorest countries. The French representatives at Genoa impudently reproached us with the assertion that Europe had nothing to learn from us, as Russia was in a state of perfect ruin, which means that we ought to have shown to Europe a much higher economy than that which we took over in the year 1917. That is out of the question. But this is the price we paid for the revolution. Not a single revolution has been carried out without a reduction of the economic level of the country, and the bourgeois conservative historian Taine asserts that eight years after the great French Revolution, the French people were much poorer than before the Revolution. And that is true.

Hence, we see in our country, for the time being, more capitalist ruin than Socialist construction. The time elapsed is still too short. We must emphasize this once more at the fourth congress of the Communist international. The five years which were devoted to the task of replacing Capitalism by Socialism, the greatest historical revolution, when we began to build up Socialism in the most backward country (while the great French Revolution broke out in the most advanced country on the continent, which stood higher than all the remaining states except England) could not suffice to bring about the necessary modifications of our social life.

These, comrades, are the conclusions, which we, in the name of our Party, shall present to the 4th congress, and there we shall have to ask our European and American comrades and also ourselves, what is the position and the prospects for the development of the European world revolution, for it is perfectly clear that the rate of our further construction will depend to a considerable extent upon the development of the revolution in Europe and America!

The European Communists Must Win Over the Working Class

We now ask, whether European and world capitalism is collapsing or whether it is still capable of living? During the year 1920, the world economic system passed through a terrible crisis. Such a crisis was unprecedented in the history of capitalism. This crisis began in the early part of 1920, extended throughout the whole of Europe, and in the first half of 1921 reached an unheard of depth and intensity. The 3rd Congress met just at the time when the crisis extended throughout the world, when in America there were about 5 to 6 million, and in England about 2 million unemployed. Many comrades were of the opinion that this was the last and final crisis which would lead to the collapse of the capitalist system and to the proletarian revolution, to civil war and the conquest of power. The tactics of the March days in Germany arose out of such a psychology.

Many lively debates raged round this question, not only among the European comrades but in our own ranks. And now the Communist International is issuing as an official document the economic report of Comrade Varga, which is based on the fact that the period of prosperity arose in the second half of 1921 and ended in the first half of 1922.

At the Third World Congress the German Communist Party with its March Action occupied the central point of discussion. The International was compelled to issue new slogans and to declare that the task of the European Communists did not consist in capturing power today or tomorrow, but in winning the majority of the working class and in creating the political preliminaries for the seizure of power. The German section is making very good use of this lesson.

In France we are politically in a much more backward position than in Germany. I am speaking of the Communist Party itself. This is shown by the fact that the French Communist Party – although in a smaller scale – repeated the March errors of the German Party. The International is in general a most beautiful thing and the instruction of one party through another is also an invaluable thing. But we must say that each section of the working class possesses the tendency to test each error upon its own back. The International can only help in the direction that fewer scars remain on these backs, but history cannot proceed without some scars.

We saw this recently in France at the port of Havre, where the C.G.T.U., the federation of the revolutionary trade unions which is in close connection with the Communist Party, called the working class to the general strike after the shooting of three insurgent workers. But there was no sign of a general strike. If in Germany, (in March) a quarter, a fifth or a sixth of the working class responded to the call for a general strike, in France, a still smaller fragment of the French proletariat participated in the general strike. And if we read the reports of this affair in the French papers and how it was arranged we are compelled to perceive how young and inexperienced the Communist parties of Western Europe are.

At the 4th Congress, the French section will appear as an inwardly disunited party just as the German Communist party appeared at the 3rd Congress. At that time the Communist International played an important role in restoring the unity of the Party, and contributed very much to the capacity of its leadership. I believe that the French Communist Party is in the same stage as the German party was in the early part of last year.

The situation in Italy is still more acute. In September, 1920, the Communist wing separated from the old Socialist Party, about a third of the old Socialist Party. The old Socialist Party, i.e. the Centre and the Right continued to exist. Under the attacks of the bourgeoisie who placed the executive power in the hands of the Fascisti, the reformists marched more and more to the right and sought to enter the government. This led to a breach with the so-called Right wing of the Socialist Party, the Serrati group. The Serrati-Party decided at its congress to all hate the Communist International. We will therefore have two parties at the 4th Congress: our Italian Communist Party and the Serrati-Party, which after a long detour wishes again to enter the Communist International. The majority of this party are without doubt striving after real revolutionary work.

A word with regard to England. The Communist Party there is still a successful agitation and propaganda organization and not a party which is able to assemble the masses behind it. But in England the circumstances are becoming continually more favourable for us, not only within the limits of the Communist Party, but with the whole working class.

Lloyd George’s Gift to the Soviet Government

Today we received a telegram announcing the resignation of Lloyd George. His was the only government that was older than our own (laughter). It is evident that of all governments we are the most firmly established. That is a charming present from Lloyd George to our anniversary in order not to grieve us (laughter). That probably means a new elect on in England. The new election means the conflict of three main groups, the Conservatives, the Unionists and the Independent Liberals, as a result of which it is not impossible that the power goes into the hands of a coalition of the Labor Party with the Independent Liberals.

In France the policy of the Bloc National with Poincaré at the head, resembles the policy of Lloyd George and differs in nothing from it, although the English journalist Harden said to me today that the policy of Lloyd George and the policy of Poincaré differed as the heavens from the earth, and that while Lloyd George enjoyed a great popularity in Russia, Poincaré was very much hated. To which I replied that Lloyd George was hated at least by our working masses – just as much as Poincaré. This caused him great astonishment and he promised that he would report this declaration in the English press (laughter).

In the two European countries, in England and France a change is taking place in the regime. In England this is already accomplished. In France the regime that arose out of the war and out of the victory is facing liquidation, and the inner collapse of those states which were restored or half restored after the war is now following, and opens many wider perspectives for our Communist sections.

But, comrades, all these underlying facts of which I speak arise from the one fact that we in Europe are still in the period of preparing the inner organization of the Communist parties, in the period of struggle for influence over the working masses. This means that we, the Soviet Republic, must give to the Communist Parties of Europe 1, 2 or 3 years for work of preparation, and this preparatory work is much harder than with us, because there, the enemy is much more clever and rational; in all European countries we see the formation of counter-revolutionary Fascisti bands, which was not the case with us. Fascism has ceased to be a purely Italian phenomenon. It is spreading in ail countries. In Germany it is the Orgesch and those bands which only change their sign boards. In France, Fascism appears under the sign of Royalism. In France there is a Royalist Party headed by Leon Daudet, the son of the writer Alphonso Daudet. This Daudet is a malicious swindler, something like our Purishkevitch.

We see the same in all countries. What has been said gives us a picture of the enormous difficulties through which the Communist Parties must force their way, even after they have won the majority of the workers. They have not yet won them. They have to do so first. Hence, a long, but by no means hopeless process is before us.

The “Kiebitz”-Sickness.

Parallel with this runs the long drawn-out process of our Socialist accumulation, of our Socialist construction; and for this reason we must turn from a temporary method of existence to a more permanent mode of life, and from haphazard work to systematic, methodical work. We must change from our absolute generality – in which I am in entire agreement with Comrade Bucharin – to specialization, to perfecting our knowledge in all spheres, and we must strongly combat that type which arose during these five years, that is, the type that looks on at things from the outside and knows everything better than anyone else.

I lived a year in Vienna as an emigrant and there I have heard the word which I found in no other language: “Kiebitz”.

Keep this word in your mind, you need it. This word means a man who, when he sees two men playing chess, cannot resist sitting beside them; he always knows what is the best move; but when he begins to play himself, he loses after the first move. And we see this sort of thing not only in regard to chess playing, but everywhere in the questions of technique, of industry, etc.

This Kiebitz complaint is very prevalent with us. This arises out of our circumstances, we were thrown hither and thither and this provisional situation was endurable, unavoidable. But in so far as we are dealing with the permanent work of economic reconstruction of the Republic, the transition to planned and methodical work plays an immense role and involves the important question of replacing the losses in the ranks of our own party from the young generation.

The Education of our Youth is a Vital Question for the Party

It is difficult to imagine the new generation, which has grown up within the frame of the consolidated Soviet Power, anywhere else than in the frame of the Soviets. The new generation seeks our leadership, groups itself about the various societies and has an appetite for culture. The party can mould this generation as it will.

This is not a piece of rhetoric. I assert that the question of the education of the young is a vital question for our Party.

At the 4th Congress of the Communist International where we shall again consider the international situation, we will reassert that we stand firmly upon our feet and we were able to do so first, because we have learned to manage and manoeuvre the Soviet apparatus and secondly, because we learned and are learning to control the membership of our Party. A new government power will not appear on the European horizon before the lapse of some months or some years, and we will then be able to work under better conditions than in the last five years. We are not, however, assured against a recurrence of capitalist madness, even against a renewal of war. The increase of the revolutionary pressure in Europe can only be the signal for a new assault upon Soviet Russia. The rise of the proletarian power in Germany – and history apparently will unravel the threads from Russia over Germany to the West – faces us with tasks which extend far beyond the limits of our own interior reconstruction.

For the solution of these tasks it is necessary to rejuvenate our Party, to create a mighty reserve of youth. And when we shall repeat to the Communist Parties: “Before you European Communists seize power you must go to the masses, you must learn to correct your faults, you must learn to influence the masses!”, then we must say to our own Party: “Before us we have a young Party which we must retain in our hands for the maintenance of our Soviet citadel, until the proletarian revolution extends to Europe and then throughout the whole world.”



1. = 7th of November, new calendar.

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