Leon Trotsky

Through What Stage Are We Passing?

The Strength of the Communist Party and the Level of Culture in a Country

(June 1921)

Delivered: June 21, 1924, this was a speech at the 5th All-Union Congress of Medical and Veterinary Workers.
Publisher: New Park, London 1965, reprinted from Fourth International [London], Summer 1964.
Source: Collection Zapad i Vostok (The West and the East), Moscow 1924.
Translated: 1960, Brian Pearce.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive, 2002.
Transcribed: Robert Barrois.
HTML Markup: David Walter.

When I spoke recently at Sokolniki, at the jubilee gathering of educational workers, I was asked a question of great importance in relation to principles, a question closely connected both with the international situation, in the widest sense of the word, and with the Fifth Congress of the Communist International which is now taking place. And instead of making a hundred-and-first or thousand-and-first attempt to describe comprehensively the so-called ‘international situation’, I am going to give, even though only in broad outline, an answer to that question of principle which was put to me at Sokolniki and which I will now tell you about. The note I received is in my pocket—here it is: “Comrade Trotsky, please explain why the most advanced capitalist countries have the weakest Communist parties (USA, Britain) and are farthest from the social revolution. This problem worries me very much and I request you to explain it.” That is the question. The answer to it is the key to the international question, broadly understood, that is, both from the standpoint of the relations between the various states and the relations between the capitalist states and the soviet republic and from the standpoint of the development of the revolution throughout the world. In the last analysis these are, after all, two aspects of one and the same problem. We all know quite well, of course, that our diplomatic work is juridically independent of the Comintern, and the Comintern independent of our diplomacy. But it is at the same time no secret that the successes of the Comintern are directly and indirectly reflected in the successes of Soviet diplomacy, and the successes of our diplomacy are reflected in the course of the world revolutionary movement. This is not at all to be understood, however, in the sense that the growth of Communism, always and everywhere, directly and immediately, improves our international position. No, the example of Germany freshly before us testifies to the fact that the growth of the Communist danger at a certain stage worsens relations between the capitalist state concerned and ourselves, even regardless of our state policy. But in this case, too, the connection between the progress of the revolution and our international position is clear, and this is no ‘fault’ of ours, for what determines this connection is not any ‘propaganda’ but the whole course of historical development. In the last analysis, of course, only the victory of communism will consolidate us fully and finally.

How then can it be explained that the most advanced and cultured countries have weak Communist parties, while, on the contrary, our country, which cannot, unfortunately, be called the most cultured in Europe, has a very strong Communist Party, which rules the state? The writer of the note says that this problem worries him. And that is quite understandable. We know that international Menshevism, starting with our own Russian Mensheviks, builds upon this contradiction its chief ‘accusation’ against international Communism and against the soviet republic. You see, if this contradiction be taken in a simple way, so to speak logically, mechanically, then you are not far from the conclusion that Communism is an expression of backwardness and barbarism. The more backward a country is, you deduce from your first glance at the problem, the stronger is Communism in that country, whereas super-civilized countries like Britain and America have very weak Communist parties, in proportion, as it were, to the small amount of survivals of barbarism in those countries. On this idea is built up the entire philosophy of international Menshevism. Allow me to deal, even though only in very general terms, with this question, which is of the highest importance.

At the congress of the Communist International one of the weakest of the European parties is certainly the British Communist Party. The American party is even weaker, true, but we are talking for the moment only about Europe. The strongest party is our party. Then comes the German party, and then the French. What in reality explains the fact that in such a powerful, cultured, educated, civilized, etc., country as Britain, the Communist Party still exists as a mere propagandist society, not yet possessing the power to play an active part in politics? In order to answer in a radical way the explanation—at first glance so simple and fitting—that Communism is directly proportionate to backwardness and barbarism, an explanation which expresses the whole wisdom of Menshevism, I will recall a few other phenomena and institutions in the life of Great Britain. In Britain, there is—and I ask you not to forget it—a monarchy, whereas there is none here or in France or in Germany. Now a monarchy cannot be depicted from any point of view as an expression of the highest culture, as one of the highest attainments of mankind—even MacDonald doesn’t do that, he keeps quiet about it, politely and diplomatically holds his tongue, and doesn’t say that a sign of the high cultural level of Britain is that there, in contrast to barbarous Russia, they have a monarchy. In Britain there is still to this day an aristocracy enjoying distinctions of rank. There is a House of Lords. In Britain, finally, the church, or rather the churches, wield tremendous influence in all spheres of life. There is no country in Europe where church influence in political, social and family life is so great as in Great Britain. Over there, for a man to say that he does not belong to a church, does not go to church, and even more, that he does not believe in God, requires quite exceptional personal courage. So it is difficult there, in each separate case, to break through the old, dense web of hypocrisy and clerical prejudices and the worldly customs which are based on this hypocrisy and these prejudices. None of you will say, I hope, that the influence of the church or of the churches on social consciousness is an expression of human progress. Thus it turns out that in Britain, alongside of the fact that the Communist Party is exceptionally weak, there are to be found such other facts, not matters of indifference for us, as the existence of a monarchy, an aristocracy, a House of Lords and a tremendous influence of religion in politics, in social life, and in everyday affairs. And if you approach Britain one-sidedly from this aspect, that is, from the aspect of the monarchy, the House of Lords, the aristocracy, landlordism and church influence, then you would doubtless say that the most barbarous and backward country in Europe is Britain. That would be as true as the statement of the Mensheviks that Communism is a product of backwardness; that is to say, it would be as untrue, as one-sided, as false. Can one really agree that Britain is the most backward country in Europe? No, this idea cannot at all be fitted into the framework of our general picture of Britain. In Britain technique is at a very high level, and technique is decisive in human life. America, true, has outstripped Britain in the field of technique: the daughter of British culture has raced ahead of her mother along the line of technique. Before the war Germany was rivalling Britain more and more sharply, threatening to outstrip and in certain branches of industry actually outstripping Britain. But today, after the defeat of Germany, Britain leads Europe economically. British science, literature and art have played and are playing a role of the first order in the development of human thought and human creative achievement. How can one find one’s way out of this contradiction? For a contradiction stares us in the face: on the one hand, high technique, science, etc.; on the other, monarchy, aristocracy, House of Lords, power of religious prejudices over people’s minds. What conclusion can be drawn? This conclusion, that there is no single yardstick with which one can measure the development of a country in every sphere, and on the basis of that measurement make a uniform evaluation covering all aspects of social life. Development is contradictory. In certain spheres a country achieves tremendous successes, but it happens quite often that by these very successes that country holds back its own development in other spheres. Let me speak concretely about this matter. Britain was the first country to take the road of capitalist development and won, thanks to that fact, the hegemony of the world market in the nineteenth century. The British bourgeoisie became, again thanks to this fact, the richest, strongest and most enlightened of the bourgeoisies. These conditions enabled it, as we know, to create a privileged position for the upper strata of the British working class and thereby to blunt class antagonisms. The British working class is becoming conscious of itself as an independent class hostile to the bourgeoisie much more slowly than the working class of other countries with less powerful bourgeoisies. Thus it turns out that the growth of the British bourgeoisie, the most advanced bourgeoisie in Europe, having taken place in exceptionally favourable conditions, has for a long time held back the development of the British proletariat. The slow and ‘organic’ growth of technique in England, and the fact that the Reformation and the bourgeois revolution happened close together in time, held back the work of critical thought in relation to the church. The British bourgeoisie developed under the protection of ancient institutions, on the one hand adapting itself to them and on the other subjecting them to itself, gradually, organically, ‘in an evolutionary way’. The revolutionary upheavals of the 17th century were profoundly forgotten. In this consists what is called the British tradition. Its basic feature is conservatism. More than anything else the British bourgeoisie is proud that it has not destroyed old buildings and old beliefs, but has gradually adapted the old royal and noble castle to the requirements of the business firm. In this castle, in the corners of it, there were its icons, its symbols, its fetishes, and the bourgeoisie did not remove them. It made use of them to consecrate its own rule. And it laid down from above upon its proletariat the heavy lid of cultural

The British Proletariat and Our Proletariat

The British working class has developed quite differently from ours. Our young proletariat was formed in a period of some 50 years, mainly from peasants and handicraftsmen who had lived in the countryside, along with their fathers and grandfathers, in ancient surroundings, in economic backwardness, amid ignorance and religious prejudices. Capital ruthlessly seized the peasant lad or youth by the scruff of the neck and at once flung him into the cauldron of factory life. The change in his conditions took place catastrophically. When the young peasant felt the blast of the factory’s steam he at once began to think about who he was and where he was. At that stage the revolutionary party caught up with him and began to explain to him what and where he was. It gained ascendancy over him all the more easily because he had no conservative ideas: the old village notions did not fit at all; he needed a complete and radical change in his whole outlook on the world.

With the British worker things went quite differently. His father and his grandfather were workers, and his great-grandfathers and remoter ancestors were small artisans. The British worker has a family tree, he knows who his ancestors were, he has a family tradition. This is also a kind of ‘culture’, but it is expressed in the fact that in his consciousness he drags around with him many of the prejudices of his ancestors. For him, the British worker, there was not this sudden, sharp, catastrophic transition from the closed little world of the village to modern industry; he has developed organically from his remote ancestors into gradually changing conditions of factory life and urban culture. In his mind there still to this day sit old, medieval craft ideas and prejudices, only modified in form and adapted to the conditions of capitalism. The life of the crafts and the craft festivals—celebration of the birth of a son, his entry into apprenticeship, graduation to the independent position of master-craftsman, and so on—were shot through and through with religiosity, and this religiosity passed over into trade unionism, which has a heavy conservative tail stretching back into the Middle Ages.

British technique is a fundamentally capitalist technique. It was not brought in from outside, destroying national economic forms, but has developed on the basis of these national forms. The consciousness of the working class reflects this ‘organic’ growth of technique, while lagging very much behind it. It must not be forgotten that human consciousness, taken on the scale of society, is fearfully conservative and slow-moving. Only idealists imagine that the world is moved forward through the free initiative of human thought. In actual fact the thought of society or of a class does not take a single step forward except when there is extreme need to do so. Where it is at all possible, old familiar ideas are adapted to new facts. We speak frankly if we say that classes and peoples have hitherto not shown decisive initiative except when history has thrashed them with its heavy crop. Had things been different, would people have allowed the imperialist war to happen? After all, the war drew nearer under the eyes of everyone, like two trains hurtling towards each other along a single track. But the peoples remained silent, watched, waited and went on living their familiar, everyday, conservative lives. The fearful upheavals of the imperialist war were needed for certain changes to be introduced into consciousness and into social life. The working people of Russia overthrew Romanov, drove out the bourgeoisie and took power. In Germany they got rid of Hohenzollern but stopped half-way. The war was needed for these changes to take place, the war with its tens of millions of dead, wounded and maimed. What a clear proof this is of how conservative and slow to move is human thought, how stubbornly it clings to the past, to everything that is known, familiar, ancestral—until the next blow of the scourge.

Such blows have occurred in Britain too, of course. Thus, after the rapid industrialization there developed in the second third of last century the stormy movement of the working class which is known as Chartism. But bourgeois society stood sufficiently firm and the Chartist movement came to nothing. The strength of the British bourgeoisie lay in its maturity, its wealth, its world power, crumbs from which it shared with the upper strata of the working class, thereby demoralizing also the weakened masses.

Think over this process to the extent necessary to understand the profound difference from our development, which was extremely delayed and therefore extremely contradictory. Take our metal-working and coal-mining south: boundless expanses of steppe, thinly populated, steppe settlements with deep mud around them in spring and autumn – and suddenly huge metal-working enterprises arise in these steppes. They did not, of course, develop out of our own economy but broke in upon us thanks to foreign capital. From the backward and scattered villages, European (and sometimes American) capital assembled fresh cadres of workers, tearing them from the conditions which Marx once called ‘the idiocy of rural life’. And there you had these fresh proletarians of the Donets basin, of Krivoy Rog and so on, not bringing with them into the pits and the factories any hereditary traditions, any craft conservatism, any fixed and firm beliefs. On the contrary, it was in these new, unfamiliar and stern conditions that they only for the first time properly felt the need for firm beliefs, which would give them moral support. To their aid came Social Democracy, which taught them to break with all their old prejudices and so gave a revolutionary consciousness to this class which had been born in a revolutionary way. This, in broad outline, is the answer to the question which was put to me and which I, in my turn, have set before you.

It is possible to put the matter like this: the richer, stronger, mightier, cleverer, firmer a bourgeoisie has proved to be, the more it has succeeded in holding back the ideological and consequently the revolutionary development of the proletariat. Here is another expression of the same idea. The British bourgeoisie has got used to the servility of the so-called workers’ leaders whom it has educated. Let me interrupt myself to introduce a very interesting quotation from the British newspaper the Sunday Times. The newspaper complains because in Britain today, under the MacDonald government, stormy strikes are taking place, and it says:

“We have in Great Britain the finest body of Labour leaders in the world, men of experience and patriotism, with a real sense of responsibility and a wide knowledge of economics. But they are rapidly being thrust aside by the avowed revolutionaries, whose influence is increased every time the government capitulates to them.” That’s what it says, word for word. As to the statement that they are being “thrust aside by the avowed revolutionaries” that, alas, is as yet an exaggeration. Of course, revolutionaries are increasing in number in Britain too, but unfortunately they have still far from sufficiently ‘thrust aside’ those leaders whom the Sunday Times calls wise politicians, filled to the brim with wisdom and patriotism.

How has this come about? In our country there have never been leaders who won such praise from the bourgeoisie, even if we bear in mind that at a certain period the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks played a considerable role, because our bourgeoisie—discounting the sharpest and most decisive moments, when things were at their most critical—was dissatisfied even with the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks. What is the cause of such satisfaction with the workers’ leaders on the part of the bourgeoisie over there in Britain? It is due to the fact that the British bourgeoisie themselves have trained these leaders. How did they get the opportunity of training ‘labour’ leaders? This was due to the circumstance that they were powerful and cultured, being the ruling class of an advanced capitalist country. As fast as the working class advanced young leaders from its ranks, all sorts of political ‘specialists’ in the service of the British bourgeoisie at once settled on them, won them over, brought to bear on them all that could be imagined by a powerful bourgeois culture. Among us the average petty-bourgeois, the philistine, the member of the intelligentsia of liberal and even radical views, has considered from time immemorial that since Britain is a highly civilized country therefore everything which exists in Britain or which comes from Britain is superior, good, progressive and so on. In this we see expressed the petty-bourgeois incapacity for thinking dialectically, analysing phenomena, grasping a problem in its historical concreteness. There is something which is really good, British technique, and that we are trying to transfer to our country in exchange for grain, timber and other valuable commodities. The British monarchy, hypocritical British conservatism, religiosity, servility, sanctimoniousness—all this is old rags, rubbish, the refuse of centuries, which we have no need for whatsoever. [Applause]

If British culture has affected our average philistine in this way from afar off, by correspondence so to speak, evoking in him a blind infatuation, how much more strongly, directly and concretely does it affect the British petty-bourgeois and the semi-petty-bourgeois representative of the British working class. What the British bourgeoisie has been able to achieve is a sort of hypnotic fascination for its culture, its world-historical importance. By means of this skilfully-organized hypnosis it has influenced the workers’ leaders, whom it has known how to keep always surrounded by its reporters, photographers, sportsmen, clergymen, lecturers and so forth, all cunningly turned on to each newcomer among the workers’ leaders. The newcomer in this way finds himself in a bourgeois milieu. They praise him to the skies if he nibbles at the bait, and they give him a good brushing the wrong way if he takes the slightest step against the bourgeoisie. And this does not just happen once, but day by day, week by week, and year in and year out. And the young leader going out into society begins to feel ashamed because his Sunday suit is not sufficiently well-cut; he dreams of a top-hat to wear when he goes out on a Sunday, so as not to be any different from a real gentleman. These may seem trifles, but, after all, they make up a man’s life. And in this hypnosis of a way of life lies the art of a ruling class, a powerful, cultured, hypocritical, base, greedy class—an art which consists in exercising an everyday influence whereby to work upon and subject to itself everyone who comes forward from among the working class, everyone who stands a head taller than the others in every factory, in every ward and borough, in every town and throughout the country.

Probably a lot of you have seen the Times. It comes out every day in dozens of pages of splendid fine print, with a variety of illustrations and an endless range of sections, so that everything has its place in the paper, from questions of high politics to all kinds of sport, and including the affairs of the churches and of the world of fashion. And from what point of view is everything presented? Naturally, from the point of view of the interests of the bourgeoisie.

Other British bourgeois newspapers are not so solid as the Times, but they are built on the same model, so as to capture the reader’s attention from every direction and lead him to genuflect before the British national tradition, that is, before the bourgeoisie. And the workers’ press is very weak; besides which, with the exception of the Communist publications, it is permeated through and through with the same hypnosis of bourgeois culture. This hypnosis is supplemented by direct terrorism. To belong to a church is in Britain the same as covering your nakedness with clothes, or paying what you owe in a shop. May one walk down the street naked? May one not belong to a church? To declare that one does not belong to a church, and still more that one does not believe in God, requires in Britain the same sort of extraordinary courage as to go naked in public. The so-called Labour government headed by MacDonald is also a product of the age-long education of the workers’ leaders in this way. That is the reason, in the last analysis, why British Menshevism is so strong and Communism weak.

There is No Abstract Yardstick for Civilization

Now let us repeat our question: is the weakness of Communism in Britain a symptom of the country’s high level of civilization, or is it a symptom of backwardness? After our analysis we have no grounds for falling into the trap of such a mechanical presentation of the question. We say: it is at one and the same time a symptom of very early development and of great backwardness, because history operates not mechanically, but dialectically: it combines during long periods advanced tendencies in one sphere with monstrous backwardness in another. If we compare, from the standpoint of world-historical development, the ‘Labour’ government of MacDonald and the bourgeois-nationalist government of Turkey (about which I spoke in my speech at Tbilisi) the conclusion we draw is not in MacDonald’s favour. You recall that the ‘great’ Liberal leader Gladstone—in reality he was a liberal philistine, and Marx had a most highly concentrated hatred of him—the ‘great’ Gladstone once delivered a tremendous speech against the bloodstained Sultan, the representative of fanatical, barbarous Islam, and so on. If you take the average philistine and say to him: Britain and Turkey—well, of course, Britain means civilization and progress, Turkey means backwardness and barbarism. But see what is happening. There is now in Britain a government of Mensheviks and in Turkey a bourgeois-nationalist government. And this bourgeois-nationalist government of Turkey has found it necessary to abolish the caliphate. The caliphate is the central institution of Pan-Islamism, that is, one of the most reactionary trends in the entire world. But the Menshevik government of Britain has re-established the caliphate in the Hejaz, in order to uphold the rule of the bourgeoisie over its Muslim slaves. History’s conclusion is that the Menshevik government of Britain, in spite of British civilization, etc., is playing in this conjuncture of forces a reactionary role, whereas the bourgeois-nationalist government of backward Turkey, as of a nationally-oppressed country, is playing a progressive role. Such is the dialectic of history! Of course, from the standpoint of the development of technique, science and art, Britain is immeasurably superior to Turkey. The accumulated wealth of Britain is beyond comparison with what Turkey possesses in this respect. But we see that it turns out that, precisely in order to protect this wealth and its whole national ‘civilization’ in general, the British bourgeoisie has been obliged to follow an ultra-conservative policy, so that a Labour government becomes in its hands an instrument for re-establishing the caliphate. There is no abstract yardstick applicable to all spheres of life. It is necessary to take living facts in their living, historical interaction. If we master this dialectical approach to the question, the latter becomes much clearer to us. Germany, for example, is placed not by accident, as regards this question of the relationship between the forces of the Communist Party and of Social Democracy, between Russia and Britain. This is to be understood by the course of development of capitalism in Germany. It is necessary, of course, to investigate concretely the history of each separate country, in order to discover more exactly the causes of the delayed or hastened growth of the Communist Party. In a general way, however, we can draw the following conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat in countries which have entered the path of capitalism very late in the day, like our country, is easier than in countries with an extensive previous bourgeois history and a higher level of culture. But this is only one side of the matter. A second conclusion, no less important, declares: socialist construction after the conquest of power will be, easier in countries with a higher capitalist civilization than in countries which are economically backward, like ours. This means that for the British working class to break through to real proletarian power, to dictatorship, will be incomparably harder than it was for us. But once having broken through to power, it will advance to socialism much quicker and much more easily than ourselves. And it is even uncertain, history has spoken with a double tongue on this question, who will build socialism earlier, we or the British. If the British working class takes power in the next ten years—I speak approximately, and give this figure not in order to prophesy but merely as an arithmetical example—it will then within another ten years have a real socialist economy, very highly developed, while we in 20 years’ time will probably still have, not only somewhere in Yakutia but also nearer here, very many survivals of peasant backwardness.

Decades will be needed to transform our north and our south into a centralized socialist economy, based on a high level of technique, with our great expanses of territory still only thinly populated. And I think that in 20 or 25 years’ time the British worker, turning to us, will say: “Don’t be annoyed, but I’ve got a bit ahead of you.” Naturally, we shan’t be annoyed—those of us, that is, who survive till then. Get ahead, comrades British workers, do us the favour of getting ahead, please, we beg you, we’ve been waiting a long time for this. [laughter] Such is the dialectic of history. Politics has held the British worker back, has for a long time, so to speak, hobbled him, and he is advancing with such timid, pitiful, MacDonaldite little steps. But when he frees himself from his political trammels, the British racehorse will outstrip our peasant nag.

To generalize theoretically what I have said, in the Marxist terminology which is familiar to us, I should say that the question itself boils down to the interrelation between the basis and the superstructure and to the interrelation of bases and superstructures of different countries one with another. We know that superstructures—state, law, politics, parties and so on—arise on an economic basis, are nourished and determined by this basis. Consequently, basis and superstructure have to correspond. And this happens in fact, only not simply but in a very complicated way. A powerful development of one superstructure (the bourgeois state, bourgeois parties, bourgeois culture) sometimes holds back for a long time the development of other superstructures (the revolutionary proletarian party), but in the last analysis—in the last analysis, not immediately—the basis reveals itself nevertheless as the decisive force. We have shown this by the example of Britain. If we approach the problem in a formal way, it may appear that the weakness of the British Communist Party contradicts the Marxist law of the relationship between basis and superstructure. But this is certainly not the case. Dialectically, the basis, as we have seen, will, in spite of everything, secure its victory. In other words: a high level of technique, even through the barrier of ultra-conservative politics, nevertheless will manifest its preponderance and will lead to socialism sooner than in countries with a low level of technique.

That, comrades, is what I conceive the fundamental answer to be to the question which was put to me at Sokolniki.

Fascism and Reformism

From general ideas about the historical causes of the strength and weakness of Communist Parties let us now pass to the world political situation in the more direct sense of the word, as it has taken shape at the time of the Fifth Congress of the Comintern. In recent years our press has often said that we have entered the epoch of Fascism. Some people have formed the view that it is Fascism that will lead directly to revolution, to the uprising of the workers in Europe. Lately, however, the very concept of Fascism has become extraordinarily muddled. On the most casual grounds it is sometimes said that Fascism is developing or that Fascism is advancing. If some strikers are arrested somewhere, this fact is interpreted quite often as the establishment of a Fascist régime, though the bourgeoisie arrested strikers before Fascism existed. We have to think this out, comrades: what is Fascism? How does it differ from a ‘normal’ régime of bourgeois violence? Expectations that Fascism, becoming steadily more and more intensified, will lead to the uprising of the proletariat, have not been justified by experience, and by no means all of us shared these expectations. We may refer to the fact that already in 1922 we said that if the German revolution did not bring the proletariat directly to victory, then we should have in the immediately-following years a Labour government in Britain and a triumph of the Left Bloc in France. In 1923, at the 4th Congress of the Comintern, we repeated this. An amendment to this effect was included in the political resolution of the Congress. Certain comrades from Austria, Holland and other countries hotly disputed this idea at the time. How could this be: a Labour government in Britain, a victory of the Left Bloc in France, why, that would mean a new epoch of reformism, it would mean that the prospect of revolution faded away into the cloudy distance, and so on. Some even hit on the notion of accusing me of propaganda – for reformist illusions. These comrades imagined that if you foresee something, in the sense of an objective development, then thereby you assume responsibility for the fact that it must happen; therefore it would be much better and safer not to foresee anything and to discuss all problems only after the event. [Applause] It must be said, though, that when we urged in those discussions the probability that there would be a Labour government in Britain and a victory of the Left Bloc in France, we had in mind only the tendency of development. This did not mean that we were a hundred per cent convinced that things would happen exactly in that way: the tendency of development is one thing, and its living refraction in reality is another thing. The factors in history are many, they intersect and interweave, some act in one direction, others in another. But history has so behaved that the forecast has on this occasion been fully realized: in Britain we have a Labour government and in France a victory of the Left Bloc. And that’s not all. We said that if in Britain a Labour government came in, and in France the Left Bloc, provided that the German revolution had not proved victorious by then, in those circumstances we should inevitably have a temporary strengthening of Social Democracy in Germany. This compromised party, broken up during the past year into hostile sections and extremely weakened, is being revived once more as a result of the ‘democratic’ turn in France and Britain, and goes to the German people with the proposition: now it is possible to arrive at an agreement with Britain, since our mates MacDonald and Co. are in power there, and with France too, where the rulers now are the Radical-Socialists, who are practically first cousins of ours, and so we German Socialists offer the German people our services as mediators in order to secure an agreement with the Western democracies. In other words, things would work out in such a way that if the revolution did not triumph in Germany in the immediate future, then a régime of temporary conciliation would prevail in European politics—‘conciliation’, of course, in the post-war style, with teeth bared and a knife up one’s sleeve.

Has this forecast been confirmed? Absolutely. What is the ‘Experts’ Plan’ for the solution of the reparations problem? It is an attempt to put through an international economic deal on a grand scale under the financial hegemony of America and Great Britain. The occupation of the Ruhr will continue ‘in the meantime’, but it will be covered up and mitigated by an agreement. The MacDonald government is a government of political deals, of class conciliation. The Left-Bloc government in France, again, is a petty-bourgeois government of class conciliation, with Menshevism in the traces. The same set-up exists in some other countries. That is the situation in Europe. And what has become of Fascism? There is nothing easier in politics than to master a catchword, a phrase, and repeat it over and over again. I have already said that consciousness is a very conservative factor and that a big whip is needed to make it go forward. What is Fascism? Can a Fascist régime exist for an indefinitely prolonged period? Fascism is the fighting organization of the bourgeoisie during and in case of civil war. That’s what Fascism is. It plays the same role for the bourgeoisie as the organization of armed uprising plays for the proletariat. The working class gets ready for the armed uprising, reorganizes its organization accordingly, creates shock groups, arms its fighters with dynamite and so on. Can such a situation continue for ever? Obviously not: either the working class conquers, and then it forms a regular army, or its assault is repulsed, and then the organization of the armed uprising is at an end at least for the immediate future. There begins once more a period of political agitation, assembling of forces and so on, and only later, after the passage of several years (after 1905!) and sometimes even decades (after the Paris Commune) is a fresh armed uprising of the proletariat prepared. We have already said that Fascism is a direct shock army of the bourgeoisie when the latter no longer finds adequate the old state machine, trammelled with legality and democracy, when it needs a force to beat off the pressure of the proletariat, and so it creates a fighting squad, ready for anything, tramples on its own legality and its own democracy, in order to uphold its power. Can Fascism last a long time? No. If the bourgeoisie keeps hold of power, as happened in Italy in 1920, as happened in Germany last year, then, having made use of Fascism’s bloody work, it strives to broaden its base, to lean upon the middle and petty bourgeoisie, and once again re-establishes legality. The bourgeoisie cannot exist for long in conditions of Fascism, as the proletariat cannot exist for years in a state of armed uprising. We see that in Italy Mussolini has in recent months been making convulsive efforts to adapt the Fascist power, i.e., its illegal fighting apparatus, to the legal mechanics of parliamentarism. He has had some success, but the opposition is growing faster than his successes. He has not so far managed to discipline his brisk boys, and we have had such an incident as the murder of the Social Democrat Matteotti. Even the majority of the bourgeois classes of Italy are against him. A proletarian rising does not threaten them directly, and so the shattering of legality by the murdering of members of parliament is not only unnecessary for the bourgeoisie but even dangerous to it. It is a superfluous luxury!

Reformism’s Chances

If we adopt this concrete, historical approach to Fascism, then it will be understandable why in Germany the bourgeoisie, which to its own enormous surprise has not been overthrown, is trying to lead victorious reaction as quickly as possible into the channel of parliamentarism; why the Conservatives have been succeeded in Britain not by ‘Fascists’ but by the Labour government of MacDonald; why in France the Left Bloc has come to power; why in Italy Fascism is undergoing an acute crisis, though its leaders are striving to adapt it to parliamentarism. We understand also why it was possible to foresee and forecast two years ago that this would happen. This could be done because the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat develops not along a straight line but through successive sharp clashes, with, separating these, more or less prolonged periods of legalized ‘peaceful’ struggle. If this were not so, capitalist society could not exist at all. Such sharp civil-war clashes occurred in Italy in September 1920, in Germany in 1918-19, in March 1921 and last year. Germany became the first of the countries where revolution was expected, and we said: either a new clash with the bourgeoisie will conclude with the victory of the proletariat, and then Fascism will come very rapidly, or it will conclude with defeat, and then the revolution will be put off for a considerable time, the bourgeoisie will need to seek a broader base and will have to entrust the Mensheviks with licking the wounds which were dealt by Fascism in the civil war. Today the Mensheviks are carrying out this task all over Europe. After the period of the imperialist war, of colossal upheavals, unprecedented strikes, revolutionary collisions, uprisings—when all this proves insufficient for victory, and the proletariat temporarily withdraws from advanced positions—and this is what has happened—then the bourgeoisie seeks both economic and political stability and with this aim begins to base itself upon the intermediate classes, the petty and middle bourgeoisie. It summons not the Fascist but the Menshevik and says to him: “Wipe away the blood stains, apply the balm of consolation to the wounds, soothe, deceive, stretch the coloured veil of democracy over everything.” This replacement of the Fascist by the Menshevik is therefore not accidental, but in accordance with the laws of historical development, and therefore it could be foreseen long before it happened. Marxism was given us so that we may find our way in the course of historical development, and to some extent foresee what lies ahead: without such understanding and foresight one cannot fight and conquer.

Thus, the neo-reformist and neo-pacifist chapter of European, and to some extent also of world history, conforms entirely to the laws of historical development. But does this mean that it will be very prolonged? And, what is even more important, does it mean that the bourgeoisie is now on the road to the final restoration of the stability of the capitalist régime? No, there are no grounds at all for saying that. The processes of the political superstructure, for all their conformity to historical laws, are very much more mobile and superficial than processes in the economic basis. And up to now it is quite impossible to observe any phenomena which would provide evidence for believing that the capitalist economy of Europe and the world is near to finding a new mobile equilibrium.

The great imperialist war was caused by the fact that the productive forces of capitalism had outgrown the limits of national statehood. Militarism’s methods had to be used to extend the market for each of the belligerent groups at the expense of the other. But the war did not solve the problem. The productive forces are now still more cramped than before the war, in the state frontiers established by the Versailles peace and the new relationship of world forces. From this results a profound, protracted, chronic crisis of capitalism. At the 3rd Congress of the Comintern we argued about the question whether post-war Europe would see conjunctural fluctuations of the market (boom, depression, crisis, etc.). We said that such fluctuations were inevitable, so long as the capitalist basis of society continues. Many of you remember what heated arguments went on about this question both in the International and in our own party. To some, this question seemed semi-academic at that time. Today there can be no longer any doubt about the meaning and significance of those discussions which took place at the 3rd Congress about the question of the significance and prospects of the crisis of European capitalism. Those discussions were by no means of merely academic interest, they were of profoundly practical, revolutionary-political interest. The question under dispute boiled down to this: can and must we expect that the crisis will follow an unbroken downward line, or should we suppose that there will be peace, in conditions of the break-up of capitalism, for small cyclical fluctuations?

The very great significance of these partial fluctuations for the proletarian movement in the post-revolutionary period is now already quite beyond any doubt. And in the period immediately ahead the significance of these partial fluctuations of the conjuncture for the revolutionary movement will certainly not be any less.

At the same time, however, thanks to the correct theoretical position laid down at the 3rd Congress, temporary improvements in the conjuncture do not at all oblige us to recognize that the crisis of European capitalism is at an end. Thus, the undoubted fact of a high commercial and industrial boom last year in America, a certain reduction in unemployment in Britain, some growth of French industry, a certain stabilization of the German, Austrian and Polish currencies, and other facts, would have been bound to lead us, if we had had an incorrect theoretical orientation, to false conclusions in the spirit of reformism. Thus, the fight against a mechanical conception of crisis was based not upon any urge to make some sort of concessions to reformism but, on the contrary, was based on a broad revolutionary prospect, and it theoretically guaranteed us against a false estimation of economic factors of a secondary character. We have no intention of joining Hilferding and Co. in their answer to the question whether capitalism’s basic equilibrium has been restored, as a result of which bourgeois society has returned to normal—for such a view, as we had said, there are no grounds, and the mere idea is the fruit of pious wishes. Conjunctural commercial and industrial fluctuations do not eliminate the basic incompatibility between the productive forces and the state frontiers within which they are exploited. It was from this contradiction that the imperialist war directly arose. The impetus to war was given by the conjunctural crisis which broke out in 1913. It is necessary to distinguish strictly between the operation of the fundamental factors and tendencies of capitalist development, on the one hand, and cyclical conjunctural fluctuations on the other. The crisis of 1913 would not have led to war by itself if there had not been the intolerable basic contradiction mentioned above. But this contradiction was only deepened and sharpened after the war. It is already clear from this that the next small boom will not be able to eliminate this basic contradiction and, consequently, to restore the economic equilibrium of bourgeois society. Its basis of bases, its economics, threatens, for the future as well, tremendous military and social upheavals.

The Lesson of the German Revolution

The whole problem now is whether the Communist Party will prove able to utilize these upheavals so as to take power and solve thereafter all the contradictions of capitalist society. If it be asked, have we, as an International, become stronger in this period, then the answer must be that on the whole we have undoubtedly become stronger. Nearly all the sections have become bigger and more influential than they were. Does this mean that their strength is growing and will continue to grow continuously, in a single upward line? No, it does not mean that. This strength grows in zigzags, waves, convulsions—here also the dialectic of development prevails; the Comintern is not exempt from it. Thus, in the second half of last year, the Communist Party of Germany was, politically, incomparably stronger than it is today—at that time it was marching directly towards the conquest of power, and the upheaval in the entire social life of Germany was so great that not only the most backward masses of the workers but also broad strata of the peasantry, the petty-bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia were all confident that the Communists were soon about to come to power and reorganize society. Moods like this are in themselves among the most reliable symptoms of the maturity of a revolutionary situation. But it turned out that the Communists were not yet able to take power. Not because the objective situation rendered this impossible—no, one could not imagine conditions more mature, better prepared for the seizure of power. If these conditions were to be exactly described, they could take their place as a classical example in the textbooks of proletarian revolution. But the Party was not able to make use of them. We must stop and dwell upon this.

The first period in the history of the International ran from October 1917 to the revolutionary upheavals in Germany in March 1921. Everything was determined by the war and its immediate consequences. We expected an uprising of the European proletariat and its conquest of power in the near future. What mistake did we make? We underestimated the role of the party. After the Third Congress there began a new period. The slogan ‘to the masses’ meant in essence: ‘build the party’. This policy was carried out more fully and successfully in Germany than anywhere else. But in Germany also it happened that it came into contradiction with the situation brought into being in 1923 as a result of the occupation of the Ruhr, which at one blow upset the fictitious equilibrium of Europe. At the end of 1923 we suffered in Germany a very great defeat, no less serious than our defeat in 1905. What, however, was the difference? In 1905 we lacked sufficient forces as became apparent during the struggle. In other words, the cause of defeat lay in the objective relation of forces. In 1923 in Germany we suffered defeat without matters ever getting to the stage of a clash of forces, without forces being mobilized and used. Thus, the immediate cause of the defeat was in this case to be found in the leadership of the party. True, one may say that even if the party followed a correct policy it still would not have been able to mobilize adequate forces and would have been beaten. This opinion is, however, to say the least, conjectural. As regards the objective situation, the relation of class forces, the self-confidence of the ruling classes and the masses of the people, that is, as regards all the prerequisites for revolution, we had a most favourable situation, as you can picture for yourselves: a crisis of existence for the nation and the state, brought to a climax by the occupation; a crisis of the economy and especially of the country’s finances; a crisis of parliamentarism; an utter collapse in the ruling class’s confidence in itself; disintegration of Social Democracy and the trade unions; a spontaneous increase in the influence of the Communist Party; a turn by petty-bourgeois elements towards Communism; a sharp decline in the morale of the Fascists. Such were the political preconditions. What was the position in the military sphere? A very small standing army, consisting of a hundred to two hundred thousand men, that is, a police force organized on army lines. The forces of the Fascists were monstrously exaggerated and to a considerable degree existed only on paper. In any case, after July-August the Fascists were severely demoralized.

Did the Communists have the majority of the working masses behind them? This is a question which cannot be answered with statistics. It is a question which is decided by the dynamic of revolution. The masses were moving steadily towards the Communists, and the opponents of the Communists were weakening equally steadily. The masses who remained with Social Democracy showed no disposition actively to oppose the Communists, as they had done in March 1921. On the contrary, the majority of the Social-Democratic workers awaited revolution in a spirit of hope. This also is what is needed for revolution.

Were the masses in a fighting mood? The entire history of the year 1923 leaves no doubt at all on this account. True, towards the end of the year this mood had become more reserved, more concentrated, had lost its spontaneity, that is, its readiness for constant elemental outbreaks. But how could that be otherwise? By the second half of the year the masses had become a great deal more experienced, and felt or understood that matters were moving in full upsurge towards a decisive showdown. In such conditions the masses could go forward only if there was present a firm, self-confident leadership and confidence on the part of the masses in this leadership. Discussions about whether the masses were in a fighting mood or not are very subjective in character and essentially express the lack of confidence among the leaders of the party itself. Assertions that no aggressive fighting mood was to be observed among the masses were made more than once here, too, on the eve of October. Lenin answered such assertions somewhat like this: “Even if we were to admit that these assertions are true, that would only show that we have missed the most favourable moment. But that would not mean at all that conquest of power is impossible at the present moment. After all, nobody will dare to affirm that the majority or even a substantial minority of the mass of the workers will oppose revolution. The most that the moderates want to claim is that the majority will not take an active part in the revolution. But it is sufficient if an active minority takes part, with a benevolent, expectant, or even passive mood prevailing among the majority.” That was Lenin’s argument. Subsequent events showed that the fighting minority drew behind it the overwhelming majority of the working people. There can be no doubt that events would have followed the same pattern in Germany.

Finally, from the international standpoint as well, the situation of the German revolution cannot be said to have been hopeless. True, imperialist France lay next door to revolutionary Germany. But, as against that, soviet Russia also exists in the world, and Communism had became stronger in all countries, including France.

What was the fundamental cause of the defeat of the German Communist Party?

This, that it did not appreciate in good time the onset of revolutionary crisis from the moment of the occupation of the Ruhr, and especially from the moment of the termination of passive resistance (January-June 1923). It missed the crucial moment. . It is very difficult for a revolutionary party to make the transition from a period of agitation and propaganda, prolonged over many years, to the direct struggle for power through the organization of armed insurrection. This turn inevitably gives rise to an inner-party crisis. Every responsible Communist must be prepared for this. One of the ways of being prepared is to make a thorough study of the entire factual history of the October revolution. Up to now, extremely little has been done in this connection, and the experience of October was most inadequately utilized by the German party. It continued even after the onset of the Ruhr crisis to carry on its agitational and propagandist work on the basis of the united front formula—at the same tempo and in the same forms as before the crisis. Meanwhile, this tactic had already become radically insufficient. A growth in the party’s political influence was taking place automatically. A sharp tactical turn was needed. It was necessary to show the masses, and above all the party itself, that this time it was a matter of immediate preparation for the seizure of power. It was necessary to consolidate the party’s growing influence organizationally and to establish bases of support for a direct assault on the state. It was necessary to transfer the whole party organization on to the basis of factory cells. It was necessary to form cells on the railways. It was necessary to raise sharply the question of work in the army. It was necessary, especially necessary, to adapt the united front tactic fully and completely to these tasks, to give it a more decided and firmer tempo and a more revolutionary character. On this basis, work of a military-technical nature should have been carried on.

The question of appointing a date for the uprising can have significance only in this connection and with this prospect. Insurrection is an art. An art presumes a clear aim, a precise plan and, consequently, a schedule.

The most important thing, however, was this, to ensure in good time the decisive tactical turn towards the seizure of power. And this was not done. This was the chief and fatal omission. From this followed the basic contradiction. On the one hand, the party expected a revolution, while on the other hand, because it had burned its fingers in the March events, it avoided, until the last months of 1923, the very idea of organizing a revolution, i.e., preparing an insurrection. The party’s political activity was carried on at a peacetime tempo at a time when the dénouément was approaching. The time for the uprising was fixed when, in essentials, the enemy had already made use of the time lost by the party and strengthened his position. The party’s military-technical preparation, begun at feverish speed, was divorced from the party’s political activity, which was carried on at the previous peacetime tempo. The masses did not understand the party and did not keep step with it. The party felt at once its severance from the masses, and proved to be paralysed. From this resulted the sudden withdrawal from first-class positions without a fight—the hardest of all possible defeats.

It cannot be thought that history mechanically creates the conditions for revolution and presents them thereafter, at the party’s request, at any moment, on a plate: here you are, sign the receipt please. That does not happen.

A class must, in the course of prolonged struggle, forge a vanguard which will be able to find its way in a situation, which will recognize revolution when it knocks at the door, which at the necessary moment will be able to grasp the problem of insurrection as a problem of art, to work out a plan, distribute roles and deal a merciless blow at the bourgeoisie. Well, the German Communist Party did not find in itself at the decisive moment this ability, this skill, this tempering and this energy. In order the more clearly to understand what is involved, let us imagine for a moment that in October 1917 we had begun to vacillate, to take up a waiting position, that we had drawn aside and said: let us wait a bit, the situation is still not clear enough. At first sight it appears that the revolution is not a bear, it doesn’t run off into the forest—if you haven’t made it in October you can make it two or three months later. But such an idea is radically mistaken. It does not take into account the mobile relationship between all those factors which make up a revolution. The most immediate and intimate condition for revolution is the readiness of the masses to carry out a revolution. But this readiness cannot be preserved, it has to be used at that very moment when it reveals itself. Before October the workers, the soldiers and the peasants were marching behind the Bolsheviks. But this, of course, did not at all mean that they themselves were Bolsheviks, that is, that they were capable of following the party in all conditions and circumstances. They had suffered acute disappointment with the Mensheviks and SRs and that was why they were following the Bolshevik Party. Their disappointment with the conciliationist parties aroused in them hope that the Bolsheviks would be tougher, that they would prove to be made of different stuff from the others, and that there would be no gulf between their words and their deeds. If the Bolsheviks had in these circumstances displayed vacillation and taken up a waiting position, then they too would in a short time have been equated in the mind of the masses with the Mensheviks and the SRs: the masses would have turned away from us as rapidly as they had come towards us. In this very way a fundamental change would have taken place in the relation of forces.

For what is this ‘relation of forces’, in fact? It is a very complex conception and is made up of many different elements. Among these there are some which are very stable, such as technique and economics, which determine class structure; in so far as the relation of forces is determined by the numbers of the proletariat, the peasantry and other classes, we have here to do with fairly stable factors. But with a given numerical size of a class, the strength of this class depends on the degree of organization and activity of its party, the interrelations between the party and the masses, the mood of the masses, and so on. These factors are much less stable, especially in a revolutionary period, and it is about them, precisely, that we are talking. If the extreme revolutionary party, which the logic of events has placed in the centre of attention of the working masses, misses the crucial moment, then the relation of forces changes fundamentally, for the hopes of the masses, aroused by the party, are replaced by disappointment or passivity and deep despair, and the party retains around itself only those elements which it has lastingly and conclusively won, i.e., a minority. This is what happened last year in Germany. Everybody, including the Social-Democratic workers, expected of the Communist Party that it would lead the country out of the blind alley it was in; the party was unable to transform this universal expectation into decisive revolutionary actions and lead the proletariat to victory. That is why, after October-November, there began an ebbing of the revolutionary mood. That also provided the basis for the temporary strengthening of bourgeois reaction, for no other, deeper changes (in the class composition of society, in the economy) had been able, certainly, to bring this about down to that time.

In the last parliamentary elections, the Communist Party polled 3,700,000 votes. That, of course, is a very, very fine nucleus of the proletariat. But this figure has to be evaluated dynamically. There can be no doubt that in August-October of last year the Communist Party could, all other things being equal, have polled an incomparably larger number of votes. On the other hand, there is much to suggest that if the elections had taken place two or three months later, the Communist Party’s vote would have been smaller. This means, in other words, that the party’s influence is now on the decline. It would be absurd to shut one’s eyes to this: revolutionary politics are not the politics of the ostrich. It is necessary, however, to have a clear understanding of the meaning of this fact. I have already said that Communist Parties are not exempt from the power of the laws of the dialectic, and that their development takes place in contradictions, through booms and crises. In a period of political flood-tide the party’s influence on the masses grows rapidly, in a period of ebb it is weakened, and the process of internal selection is intensified in the parties. All accidental and unreliable elements depart, the nucleus of the party is welded and tempered. Thereby it is prepared for a fresh revolutionary flood-tide. A correct estimate of the situation and a sound view of the future preserves one from mistakes and disappointments. We have already seen the truth of this in relation to the question of industrial booms and crises in the post-war period. We see this, again, in relation to the question of Europe’s entry into a neo-reformist phase. Now we need to understand with all possible clarity the stage through which Germany is passing, otherwise we shall not know what the morrow will bring us.

After the defeat of 1905 we needed seven years before the movement, stimulated by the Lena events, began once again to turn upward, and we needed twelve years before the second revolution gave power to the proletariat. The German proletariat suffered last year a very big defeat. It will need a definite and considerable interval of time in order to digest this defeat, to master its lessons and to recover from it, once more to gather its strength; and the Communist Party will be able to ensure the victory of the proletariat only if it, too, fully and completely masters the lessons of last year’s experience. How much time will be needed for these processes? Five years? Twelve years? No precise answer can be given to this question. One can only express this general idea that the rate of development, in the sense of radical changes in the political situation, has become much more rapid and feverish since the war than it was before the war. In economics we see that the productive forces grow very slowly, and at the same time worsening and improvement in the conjuncture succeed each other more frequently than pre-war. A similar phenomenon is observed in politics too: Fascism and Menshevism succeed one another very rapidly; yesterday’s situation was profoundly revolutionary and today the bourgeoisie seems to be triumphing all along the line. In this consists also the profoundly revolutionary character of our epoch, and this character of the epoch compels us to draw the conclusion that the triumph of counter-revolution in Germany cannot be long-lasting. But at the present moment what we observe are phenomena of ebb tide and not of flood tide, and our tactics should, of course, conform to this situation.

Europe and America

In Britain the conservative-reformist and pacifist illusions of the working class, seriously undermined by the war, are now booming again, and more luxuriantly than before, under the sign of the Labour government. The entire political past of the British working class, in so far as it is expressed in political moderation, conciliation, reformism and complicity in the imperialist policy of the bourgeoisie, is now being subjected to its highest test, with the transfer of power to the Labour Party. The Labour Party itself is playing down the seriousness of this test by pointing to the fact that it has not an absolute majority in parliament and therefore is not responsible for everything. But history has nevertheless mounted a full-scale experiment. The outcome of the MacDonald régime, however it may finish from the formal standpoint, will be a deepening of criticism and self-criticism in the ranks of the working class. And criticism and self-criticism mean a growth of the left wing. For Britain the period of the formation of the Communist Party is only now really opening.

The MacDonald government has not only deepened the temporary democratic-pacifist illusions of the British working class, it has also increased its self-awareness. One cannot say that the British working class now feels itself master in the house, for if it had that feeling then it would already have become master. But the average British worker says to himself: we do count for something then, since the king has called our trade unionists to power. And this awareness, whatever conservative limitations it may bear within itself as a result of the entire past, itself gives a big stimulus to future development. The workers have become more demanding, less patient, and as a result the number of strikes has sharply increased in Britain. And it is not for nothing that the Sunday Times is complaining that though they have splendid Labour leaders in Britain these are being rapidly thrust aside by revolutionaries. Rapidly or not, they are being thrust aside and they will be thrust aside—thrust aside and thrust out. [applause]

In their entire economic and political situation the countries of Europe are placed, taken as a whole, between the positions of Germany and of Britain—with, perhaps, the exception, that Italy now seems to be coming forward again into the front rank of the revolution. The breakdown of Mussolini’s régime may come quite quickly, and by the very character of the régime this may assume very radical forms and once more confront the proletariat with the problem of power. The task in Italy consists in having at this moment a party which is sufficiently strong and full of initiative. This is a big and difficult task, but it must be carried out.

As before, America occupies a special place. Even before the war, the rates of development of Europe and America were not identical, and since the war the difference between them has become still greater. When we speak of the international revolution, we quite often think of it too summarily, in too general terms. The world revolution will have its stages, separated one from another by considerable intervals of time. Everything points to the probability that the American revolution will take place considerably later than the European. Historically such a course of events is exceedingly likely, with the East throwing off the imperialist yoke, the proletariat taking power in Europe, and America remaining as before the citadel of capital.

In this sense the United States may become and is becoming a basic counter-revolutionary force in history. The philistines cannot understand this—for them the question is decided by pseudo-democratic forms, pacifist phrases and other trash. The fact that the war went on for four years, exhausting Europe, was possible only because of the special role played by America. After the war America helped the European bourgeoisie to defend its positions. Now America is organizing, through the ‘Experts’ Plan’, a complex system of enslavement of the European working masses. America opposes most stubbornly any recognition of the soviet republic. The United States is fantastically rich. The American bourgeoisie has at its disposal unprecedented resources with which to manoeuvre both in internal and external politics. All this taken together suggests that a victorious European proletariat would most likely have to reckon with American capital as with an uncompromising and powerful foe. Social Democracy, and German Social Democracy first and foremost, is doing everything it can to glorify the political role of ‘transatlantic democracy’. Social Democracy frightens the workers with the wrath of America in the event of their showing disrespect and, contrariwise, promises them great benefits to follow an agreement between the European democracies under the aegis of the American bourgeois. The entire policy of European Menshevism is built upon this. Being in general an agency of the bourgeoisie, European Social Democracy is naturally and inevitably becoming an agency of the richest and mightiest bourgeoisie, that of America. Social Democracy is trying to paralyse the revolutionary energy of Europe’s workers with the hypnosis of American capitalist power. We have seen this especially in Germany since 1918, when Kautskyan Wilsonism was the most serious counter-revolutionary factor in the ranks of the working class itself. We may expect that in the forthcoming period, in accordance with the implementing of the ‘Experts’ Plan’, Social Democracy will only intensify its work of intimidating the proletariat with the bogey of all-powerful North America, at once beneficent and terrible. A struggle against this intimidation and this hypnosis is a necessary condition for successfully preparing the workers of Europe for revolution. They must realize that a united Europe is fully capable not only of existing independently in the economic sense but also of defending itself in open struggle against American counter-revolution. When we speak of united Europe we have in mind a European Federal soviet republic, indissolubly linked with our present union and through its mediation stretching out a hand to the East, to the peoples of Asia. We say to the European workers: if you take power, if you establish a Soviet United States including us as well, then at once you unite two mighty continents which possess splendid technical equipment, boundless spaces and natural resources, and the tremendous enthusiasm of a revolutionary class which has come to power. If you should have to clash face to face with armed world counter-revolution—and you will have to—you will build your own Red Army, and you will not have to begin from scratch, for we shall give you as leaven for it the Red Army of the Soviet Union, already experienced in war and encouraged by victory. [Stormy applause]

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Last updated on: 15.4.2007