Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, Volume 2

Where is Britain Going?

The Question of
Revolutionary Force

We have acquainted ourselves with MacDonald’s views on revolutionary force. They proved to be a development of Mr. Baldwin’s Conservative theory of gradualness. The rejection of the use of force by the “left” Lansbury has a more curious, although more sincere, character. The latter, you see, purely and simply “does not believe” in force. He “does not believe” either in capitalist armies or armed uprisings. Had he believed in force he would not, he says, have voted for the British Navy but would have joined the communists. What a plucky devil! The fact that Lansbury, while not believing in force, does believe in the hereafter, of course casts doubt on his realism.

Nonetheless, one or two events on earth have, by leave of Mr. Lansbury, taken place by means of force. Whether Lansbury does or does not believe in the British Navy, the Indians know that this Navy exists. In April 1919 General Dyer gave orders to fire without previous warning on an unarmed gathering of Indians at Amritsar – as a result of which 450 persons were killed and 1500 wounded. While we may leave the dead in peace, it must be said of the wounded that they at any rate could not “not believe” in force. But even as a believing Christian, Lansbury ought to have realised that if the rogues of the Jewish priesthood, in conjunction with the cowardly Roman proconsul Pilate, the political ancestor of MacDonald, had not in their day adopted the use of force against Christ there would have been neither crown of thorns, nor resurrection nor ascension, and Mr. Lansbury himself would not have had the opportunity of being born a devout Christian and becoming an inferior socialist.

Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity. All of life is built upon different forms of force, and the opposition of one force to another.) so that to renounce liberating force amounts to supporting the oppressors’ force, which today governs the world.

We feel however that cursory comments are of no avail here. The question of force and its “denial” by Messrs. Pacifists, Christian socialists and other such hypocrites, occupies such a big place in British politics that a particular and detailed examination, specially adapted to the political level of the present-day “leaders” of the British Labour Party is required. At the same time we apologise in advance to the rest of our readers for this level of exposition.

What does denying any use of force really mean? If, say, a thief broke into Mr. Lansbury’s flat we very much fear that this pious gentleman (we are here speaking of the householder) would adopt force or invite the nearest policeman to do so. Even if out of his Christian mercy Lansbury let the thief go in peace – of which we are not altogether certain – then it would only be on the clear understanding that he immediately left the flat. What is more, the honourable gentleman could only permit himself the luxury of such a Christian gesture because his flat lies under the protection of the British law of property (and its numerous Arguses), with the result that on the whole nocturnal visits by thieves constitute the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps Lansbury will venture to reply that an intrusion into an honourable private Christian flat is an act of force, and thus calls for retaliation. We say to him that such an argument is an abandonment of the renunciation of force in general. It is, on the contrary, its admission, in principle and in practice, and can be wholly translated into the class struggle, where the intrusion day in and day out by the thief, capital, into the life and labour of the proletariat, and its plundering of surplus value fully justifies retaliation. Maybe Lansbury will reply to us that he understands by force not all the means of coercion in general, without which our marvellous social arrangements could not function, but only the violation of the Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill’.

To substantiate such a view many high-flown phrases about the sanctity of human life can be quoted. But here too we must ask, in the language of the Gospel parables which best suits the leaders of British socialism, how Mr. Lansbury would behave if a robber brandished a club at children before his very eyes, and if there was no other means of saving them than an immediate and accurate revolver shot. If he does not wish to resort to wholly crude sophisms he will reply, and possibly to his own relief, that our example has too exceptional a character.

But this reply would merely signify once more that Lansbury had entrusted his right to resort to homicide in such circumstances to the police, that specialised organization of force which in the majority of cases relieves him of the need to use a revolver, or even to ponder its practical purpose.

But, let us ask, what happens when armed strike-breakers beat up and kill strikers? Such incidents are quite usual in America, and not exceptional in other countries. Workers cannot entrust their right to resist strike-breakers to the police, because in all countries the police defend the right of strike-breakers to beat up and kill strikers – to whom, as is well known, the law of the sanctity of human life does not extend. We ask: have strikers the right to use sticks, stones, revolvers and bombs against fascists [1], Ku Klux Klan gangs [2] and other such hired scoundrels of capital? There’s a nice little poser to which we would request a clear, precise and in no way evasive, hypocritical answer.

If Lansbury tells us that the task of socialism is to give the masses of the people such an education that would make fascists not fascists, scoundrels not scoundrels and so forth, then this is the purest humbug. That the aim of socialism is the elimination of force, first in its crudest and bloodiest forms, and then in other more covert ones, is indisputable. But here we are dealing not with the manners and morals of a future communist society but with the concrete paths and methods of struggle against capitalist force.

When fascists disrupt a strike, seize a newspaper’s editorial offices and its safe, and beat up and kill workers’ deputies while the police encircle the thugs with a protective ring, then only the most corrupt hypocrite would advise workers not to reply blow for blow, on the pretext that force would have no place in a communist system. Obviously in each particular case it is necessary to decide, with respect to the whole situation how to answer the enemy’s force and just how far to go in one’s retaliation. But that is a matter of tactical expediency which has nothing to do with the acknowledgement or denial of force in principle.

What really is force? Where does it start from? Where do permissible and expedient collective actions by the masses become acts of force? We greatly doubt that Lansbury or any other pacifist is capable of giving a reply to this question unless he confines himself to a simple reference to the criminal code, where what can be tolerated and what cannot is set out. The class struggle forms a continuous chain of open or masked acts of force which aire “regulated” to this or that degree by the state, which in turn represents the organized the most powerful of adversaries, namely the ruling class.

Is a strike an act of force? There was a time when strikes were banned and every strike was almost inevitably linked with physical conflicts. Then, as a result of the development of the strike struggle, that is to say, as a result of the masses’ acts of force against the law, or more exactly as a result of the continual blows by the masses against force used by the law, strikes were legalized. Does this mean that Lansbury considers only peaceful, “legal” strikes, i.e. those allowed by the bourgeoisie, to be a permissible means of struggle? But if workers had not conducted strikes at the beginning of the nineteenth century the British bourgeoisie would not have legalized them in 1824. But if one allows the application of force or violence in the form of a strike then one has to accept all the consequences, including the defence of strikes from strike-breakers by means of appropriate measures of counter-force.

Moreover, if strikes by workers against the capitalists, or particular groups of capitalists are permissible then would Lansbury venture to say that it was impermissible for workers to organize a general strike against a fascist government that was suppressing the workers’ unions, smashing the workers’ press and flooding the workers’ ranks with provocateurs and murderers?

Once again a general strike can be adopted not at any hour on any day but only under specific concrete conditions. But this is a matter of strategic expediency not of a general ,moral’ assessment. As for the general strike, as one of the most decisive means of struggle, Lansbury and all his fellow-thinkers taken together have hardly devised any other means that the proletariat could adopt for achieving a decisive end. Lansbury would surely not fall so low as to recommend workers to wait until the spirit of brotherly love takes command of the hearts of let us say, the Italian fascists who are, by the way, to a large extent extremely devout Catholics. But if you recognize that the proletariat not only has the right, but is duty-bound to prepare for a general strike against a fascist regime you must draw all the conclusions that follow from such a recognition.

A general strike, if it is not to be a mere protest, signifies an extreme upheaval of society and in any event places at stake the fate of the political regime and the reputation of the strength of the revolutionary class.A general strike can only be undertaken when the working class, and above all its vanguard, is ready to carry the struggle through to the end. But fascism will not of course begin to surrender. to a peaceful protest strike. In the event of a real and immediate danger the fascists will set all their forces in motion, they will launch provocations, assassinations, and arson on an unprecedented scale. One may ask: is it permissible for the leaders of a general strike to form their own militias for the defence of the strikers against acts of force and for disarming and dispersing the fascist bands? And as no one has succeeded, at least in our memory, in disarming furious enemies by means of religious hymns then the revolutionary detachments must obviously be armed with revolvers and hand grenades until such time as they can lay hold of rifles, machine-guns and cannon. Or is it perhaps only at this point that the domain of impermissible force begins?

But then we should become completely entangled in absurd and shameful contradictions. A general strike that does not safeguard itself from acts of force and rout is a demonstration of cowardice and doomed to defeat. Only a lunatic or a traitor could call for a struggle under such conditions. By the logic of relations that do not depend on Lansbury, an “unarmed” strike struggle produces armed clashes. This happens quite often in economic strikes and in a revolutionary political strike it is absolutely unavoidable, for the strike has the task of toppling the existing state power. Whoever renounces force must renounce struggle as a whole, that is to say, he must in practice join the ranks of the supporters of ruling class victory.

But the question is not limited to this. The general strike under consideration has the object of overthrowing a fascist regime. This can only be achieved by gaining the upper hand over its armed forces. Here again there are two possibilities: a straight military victory over the forces of reaction or the winning of these forces over to the side of the revolution. Neither is practicable in a pure form. A revolutionary uprising can hold on to victory only where it succeeds in cracking the firmest, most resolute and reliable detachments of reaction and attracting the remaining armed forces of the regime over to its side. Once again this can only be achieved in a situation where the wavering government forces are convinced that the working masses are not simply demonstrating their discontent but have this time firmly made their mind up to overthrow the government at all costs, not balking at the most ruthless means of struggle. Only this sort of impression will be capable of swinging the wavering forces over to the side of the people. The more procrastinatory, hesitant and evasive the policy of the leaders of the general strike, the less will be the waverings in the soldiers’ ranks, the more resolutely they will support the existing power, and the more chances the latter will have of emerging the victor from the crisis so as then to loose all the scorpions of bloody repression on to the heads of the working class.

In other words, since the working class is compelled to resort to a general political strike to gain its freedom it must take warning that the strike will inevitably give rise to partial and general, armed and semi-armed conflicts; it must take warning that the only way for the strike to avoid defeat is if it immediately deals the necessary rebuff to strike-breakers, provocateurs and fascists. It must foresee that the government whose fate is in question will inevitably bring its armed force out onto the streets at some point in the struggle, and that on the outcome of the clash between the revolutionary masses and this armed force hangs the fate of the existing regime and consequently of the proletariat. Workers must take all measures in advance to attract soldiers to the side of the people by preliminary agitation; and at the same time they must foresee that the government will always be left with a sufficient number of dependable or semi-dependable soldiers whom it will bring out to quell the uprising; so that in the last analysis the question has to be settled by an armed clash which must be prepared with thorough planning and waged with total revolutionary determination.

Only the highest resoluteness in the revolutionary struggle is capable of striking the arms out of the hands of reaction, shortening the duration of civil war and minimising the number of its victims. Whoever does not take this road should not take to arms at all; and without taking to arms a general strike cannot be organized. And if the general strike is rejected there can be no thought of serious struggle. The only thing that then remains is to educate workers in the spirit of total prostration which is already the concern of official education, governing parties, the priests of every church and ... the socialist preachers of the impermissibility of force.

But this is what is remarkable: rather as idealist philosophers in their practical life feed on bread, meat and contemptible matter in general and try to avoid being run down by cars instead of relying on the immortality of the soul, so also Messrs. Pacifists, the impotent opponents of force, moral “idealists” on all those occasions where it comes within the ambit of their immediate interests, appeal to political force and make use of it directly or obliquely. Thus as Mr. Lansbury is evidently not devoid of something akin to temperament, such adventures happen to him more than others. In the parliamentary debates in connection with the unemployed (the House of Commons sitting of 9th March 1925) Lansbury recalled that the Unemployed Insurance Act was passed in its present form in 1920 “not so much to safeguard the lives of men and their families but, as Lord Derby had recently told them, to forestall a revolution”. In 1920, Lansbury continued, all the workers who were serving in the army were included among those insured because the government was at the time not quite sure whether they would turn their rifles in the direction desirable to the government (The Times, 10th March 1925). After these words the parliamentary report records: “cheers from Opposition benches” that is from the Labour Party, and cries of “Oh!” on the government benches.

Lansbury does not believe in revolutionary force. But he nevertheless recognizes following Lord Derby, that a fear of revolutionary force brought about a law on state insurance for the unemployed. Lansbury is conducting a struggle against attempts to repeal this law; consequently be believes that a law brought about through fear of revolutionary force is bringing a certain benefit to the working class. So the benefit of revolutionary force is hereby proved virtually mathematically. For, with respect to Mr. Lansbury, if there were not acts of force there would be no fear of it. If there were not a real possibility (and necessity) of turning rifles against the government in certain circumstances then the government would have no grounds to fear it. Consequently Lansbury’s so-called disbelief in force is the purest delusion. In practice he makes use of this force, in the form of an argument, at least every day. Even more does he enjoy in practice the conquests of the revolutionary force of past decades and centuries. He merely refuses to draw the threads of his ideas together. He rejects revolutionary force for the seizure of power, that is to say for the complete liberation of the proletariat. But in struggles that do not transcend the bounds of bourgeois society he is perfectly amenable to force and makes use of it. Mr. Lansbury is for retail but against wholesale force. He resembles the vegetarian who accepts duck or rabbit meat with equanimity but rejects the slaughter of larger animals with righteous indignation.

We can foresee, however, that Mr. Lansbury or his more diplomatic and more hypocritical fellow-thinkers will object: yes, against a fascist regime or any sort of despotic government, perhaps we won’t argue: well, in the end a certain degree of force might be permissible; but it is quite impermissible under a regime of democracy. We for our part would right away register this objection as a surrender of a position of principle, for we were originally talking not about under what conditions force is permissible, or expedient, but whether it is ever permissible taken from an abstract, Humanitarian-Christian-socialist point of view.

When we are told that revolutionary force is impermissible only under a regime of political democracy then the question is thereby transferred to another plane. This does not however mean that democratic opponents of force are more profound and cleverer than the Christian-humanitarian ones. Here we can without difficulty be convinced that this is not so.

Is it indeed true that the question of the expediency and permissibility of revolutionary force is decided by reference to the greater or lesser “democraticness” of the forms of the rule of the bourgeoisie? Such a formula is wholly refuted by historical experience. The struggle between the revolutionary and the peaceful legalistic reformist tendency within the workers’ movement did riot at all begin from the moment a republic was established or universal suffrage introduced. In the era of Chartism and right up to 1868 workers in Britain were utterly deprived of the vote, that is, of the basic implement of “peaceful” development. Nonetheless, the Chartist movement was split between the supporters of physical force whom the masses followed, and the supporters of moral force, predominantly petty-bourgeois intellectuals and labour aristocrats.

In Hohenzollern Germany. [3] With its impotent parliament a struggle within social democracy took place between the supporters of parliamentary reforms and the proponents of a revolutionary general strike. And finally even in Tsarist Russia under the June 3rd regime [4] the Mensheviks [5] liquidated revolutionary methods of struggle under the slogan of a struggle for legality.

Thus to invoke the bourgeois republic or universal suffrage as the basic reformist and legalist argument is a product of theoretical narrowness, a short memory or pure hypocrisy. Legalistic reformism in its true essence signifies the subservience of slaves to the laws and institutions of the slave-owners. Whether universal suffrage forms one of these institutions or not and whether they are crowned by a king or a president are for the opportunist questions of a secondary nature. He always goes on his knees before the idol of the bourgeois state and agrees to proceed towards his “ideal” by no other way than through the asses’ gate built for him by the bourgeoisie. But the gate is built so that it is impossible to pass through it.

What is political democracy and where does it start from? In other words, where, which countries, does the ban on force cover? Can for example a state be called a democracy where there is a monarchy and an aristocratic chamber? Is it permissible to adopt revolutionary methods to topple these institutions? To this the answer may be made that the British House of Commons has sufficient power to abolish royalty and the House of Lords should it find this necessary, so that the working class has a peaceful way of completing a democratic regime in its country. Let us allow this for the moment. But what is the position with the House of Commons itself? Can this institution really be called democratic, even from a formal point of view?

Not in the slightest. Considerable groups of the population are deprived of the franchise. Women have the vote only from the age of 30 and men only from 21. [6] The lowering of the age qualification is from the standpoint of the working class, where working life starts early, an elementary demand of democracy. Besides, parliamentary constituencies are divided up in such a perfidious fashion that one Labour member must win twice as many votes as one Conservative. [7]

By keeping the age qualification up the British parliament exiles active youth of both sexes and charges the destiny of the country to primarily the older generations which, wearying of life, look more under their feet than out in front. Here lies the point of the high age qualification. The cynical geometry of the constituencies gives a Conservative vote as much weight as two Labour votes. Thus the present-day British Parliament represents the most flagrant mockery of the will of the people even taken in the bourgeois-democratic sense.

Has the working class the right, even while remaining on the ground of the principles of democracy, to demand that the present privileged. and basically usurping House of Commons introduce a really democratic franchise? But if parliament answers that with a refusal – which., we contend, would be inevitable, for only the other day Baldwin’s government refused to make women the equal of men in respect of the age qualification – would the proletariat in such an event have the “right” to win from the usurper parliament the introduction of a democratic franchise by means of, let’s say, a general strike?

If we further suppose that either the present, usurping House of Commons, or a more democratic one, resolved to abolish royalty and the House of Lords – of which there is not a hope – this would still not mean that the reactionary classes which had proved to be in the minority in parliament would submit unreservedly to such a decision. Not so very long ago we saw the Ulster reactionaries under the leadership of Lord Carson taking the path of open civil war when they had a difference of opinion with the British parliament over the question of the system of administration for Ireland, in which the British Conservatives openly supported the Ulster rebels. But, we shall be told, such a case amounts to an open rising on the part of the privileged classes against a democratic parliament and obviously such a rebellion would have to be quelled with the aid of state force. Let us record this admission but demand here that one or two practical conclusions be drawn from it.

Let us allow for the minute that a Labour majority in parliament results from the next elections and that as a start it resolves in the most legal fashion to hand over the landlords’ land to the farmers and the chronically unemployed without compensation, to introduce a high tax on capital and to abolish the monarchy, the House of Lords and a few other obscene institutions. There cannot be the least doubt that the possessing classes would not give in without a fight, and all the less so since the entire police, judicial and military apparatus is wholly in their hands. In the history of Britain there has already been one instance of civil war when the King rested upon a minority in the Commons and a majority in the Lords against the majority of the Commons and a minority in the Lords. That affair was in the 1640s. Only an idiot, let us repeat, only a wretched idiot, can seriously imagine that a repetition of a civil war of that kind (albeit on new class bases) can be prevented in the twentieth century by the evident success of the last three centuries of a Christian world-outlook, humanitarian feelings, democratic tendencies and all the other excellent things. The same example of Ulster shows that the possessing classes do not play around when parliament, their own institution, finds itself compelled to squeeze their privileged position.

In preparing to take state power it is thus necessary to prepare for all the consequences that flow from the inevitable resistance of the possessing classes. It must be firmly understood: if a truly workers’ government came to power in Britain even in an ultra-democratic way, civil war would become unavoidable. The workers’ government would be forced to suppress the resistance of the privileged classes. To do this by means of the old state apparatus, the old police, the old courts, the old army would be impossible. A workers’ government created by parliamentary means would be forced to construct new revolutionary organs for itself, resting upon the trade unions and working-class organizations in general. This would lead to an exceptional growth in the activity and initiative of the working masses. On the basis of a direct struggle against the exploiting classes the trade unions would actively draw closer together not only in their top layers but at the bottom levels as well, and would arrive at the necessity of creating local delegate meetings, i.e. councils (Soviets) of workers’ deputies. A truly Labour government, that is to say, a government dedicated to the end to the interests of the proletariat would find itself in this way compelled to smash the old state apparatus as the instrument of the possessing classes and oppose it with workers’ councils. That means that the democratic origin of the Labour government – even had this proved possible – would lead to the necessity of counterposing revolutionary class force to the reactionary opposition.

We have shown above that the present British parliament forms a monstrous distortion of the principles of bourgeois democracy and that without adopting revolutionary force one can hardly obtain in Britain even an honest division of parliamentary constituencies or the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords. But let us allow for the minute that these demands have been realised in one way or another, Does that mean that we would then have a really democratic parliament in London? Not by any means. The London parliament is a parliament of slave-owners. Even were it to represent a nation of forty million in the most ideal and formally democratic manner the British parliament would still pass laws for the three hundred million population of India and have financial resources at its disposal that it had acquired by force of Britain’s rule over the colonies. India’s population does not take part in the passing of laws that determine its own fate.

British democracy is similar to that of Athens in the sense that equality of democratic rights (which in fact does not exist) affects only the “free-born” and rests upon the lack of rights of the “lower” nations. For each inhabitant of the British Isles there are some nine colonial slaves. Even if you consider that revolutionary force is impermissible in a democracy, this principle can in no case be extended to the peoples of India who are rising up not against democracy but against the despotism that oppresses them. But in this event even a British person if he is really a democrat cannot recognize a binding democratic force for British laws passed for India, Egypt and elsewhere. And as the whole social life of Britain herself as the colonial power, rests upon these laws then it is obvious that all the activity of the Westminster parliament as the focal point of a predatory colonial power is anti-democratic to its very roots. From the point of view of consistent democracy it has to be said: as long as the Indians, Egyptians and others are not permitted full freedom of self-determination i.e. the freedom of secession, or the Indians, Egyptians and others cannot send their representatives to an imperial parliament with the same rights as the British representatives, then not only the Indians, Egyptians and others but also British democrats have the right to rise up against the predatory government formed by a parliament representing an insignificant minority of the population of the British Empire. Consequently that is how matters stand with Britain if we judge the question of the use of force merely by the criterion of democracy but carrying through to its conclusion.

The British social-reformists’ denial of the right of the oppressed masses to use force is a shameful rejection of democracy and forms a contemptible support for the imperialist dictatorship of an insignificant minority over hundreds of millions of enslaved people. Before lecturing the communists on the sanctity of democracy and denouncing Soviet power Mr. MacDonald would do well to give his own nose a good blow!

First we examined the question of force from a “humanitarian’, Christian, priestly point of view and were persuaded that the social-pacifists in seeking a way out of insoluble contradictions were in fact forced to concede their position and admit that revolutionary force is permissible once outside the pale of democracy. We further showed that it is as hard for those who deny force to base themselves on a democratic standpoint as it is on a Christian one. In other words, we have revealed the complete inconsistency, fraudulence, and hypocrisy of social-pacifism even by its own standards.

But this does not at all mean that we are prepared to recognize these standards. In resolving the question of revolutionary force the parliamentary-democratic principle for us by no means forms, the highest criterion. Not mankind for democracy but democracy as one of the auxiliary instruments on the road of mankind’s development. Where bourgeois democracy has turned into an obstacle it has to be torn down. The transition from capitalism to socialism derives not at all from formal democratic principles elevated above society but from the material conditions of the development of society itself. from the growth of the productive forces, from insoluble capitalist contradictions, domestic and international, and from a sharpening of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. A scientific analysis of the whole historical process and of our generation’s own political experience, including the imperialist war, all alike testify that without a transition to socialism all our culture is threatened with decay and decomposition. The transition to socialism can only be accomplished by the proletariat led by its revolutionary vanguard and leading behind it all the toiling and oppressed masses of the metropolitan country and the colonies.

In all our work and all our political decisions our highest criterion is the interests of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat to take power and to re-construct society. We consider that to judge the movement of the proletariat from the standpoint of the abstract principles and legal clauses of democracy is reactionary pedantry. We consider the only correct way to judge democracy is from the standpoint of the historical interests of the proletariat. It is not a matter of the nutshell but the kernel. The discussions of Messrs. Fabians about the impermissibility of a “narrow class” viewpoint is the purest blockheadedness. They want to subordinate the basic tasks of social development to be effected by the proletariat to the schoolroom pedants. By the name of the solidarity of all mankind they mean an eclectic jumble that corresponds to the narrow class horizon of the petty bourgeois. Between their property and the revolutionary proletariat the bourgeoisie sets up the screens of democracy. The socialist pedants say to the workers: you must take control of the means of production but as a preliminary you must see that the necessary holes and channels are made through these screens by means of legislation. But cannot the screens be pulled down? Not under any circumstances. Why not? Because even if we did save society in this way, we would still have upset that complex system of state force and fraud that the bourgeoisie has taught us to regard as sacred democracy.

The opponents of force, dislodged from their first two positions, may occupy a third line of trenches. They may agree to cast Christian mysticism and democratic metaphysics right out and attempt to defend the reformist, pacifist, peaceful, parliamentary road on the grounds of bare political expediency. Some of them may say roughly the following: of course Christ’s teaching does not make provision for solving the contradictions of British capitalism; democracy is likewise not a sacred institution but merely a temporary, and subsidiary product of historical development; but why on earth should the working class not avail themselves of a democratic parliament with its methods, devices and legislative machinery for the effective taking of power and the re-building of society? For this would be quite natural and by all indications a more economical way of carrying out the socialist revolution.

We communists are in no event inclined to advise the British proletariat to turn its back on parliament. On the contrary when individual British communists did reveal such a tendency they met with a rebuff from us at the international congresses. [8] Thus the question is not whether the parliamentary road should be made use of but what place parliament occupies in the development of society and where the class forces lie, inside or outside parliament; in what form and on what ground these forces will collide and whether a parliament created by capitalism for its own development and protection can be made into a lever for the overthrow of capitalism.

To answer this question an attempt has to be made to imagine with a certain degree of concreteness what path the future political development of Britain will take. Clearly, any attempted forecast of this sort can only be of a conditional, tentative nature. But without such attempts we would be doomed to wander in the dark.

The present government has a firm majority in parliament. Consequently it is not excluded that it will survive in power for another three or four years although its term of office could prove shorter. In the course of this period the Conservative government which began with “conciliatory” speeches by Baldwin will reveal that it has been in the last resort summoned to conserve all the contradictions and ulcers of post-war Britain. With regard to the most terrible of these ulcers, chronic unemployment, the Conservative party itself has no illusions. No substantial expansion of exports can be hoped for. Competition from America and Japan is mounting and German industry is reviving. France is exporting with the aid of a falling currency. Baldwin declares that politicians cannot bring relief to industry; it must find it within itself. The fresh efforts to re-establish the Gold Standard signify new sacrifices on the part of the population and consequently of industry, which foreshadow a further rise in discontent and alarm. The radicalization of the British working class will proceed apace.

All this will prepare the coming to power of the Labour Party. But we have every reason to fear, or rather, to hope, that this process will cause much displeasure not only to Baldwin but to MacDonald too. Above all a growth in the number of industrial conflicts can be expected and along with this an increase in the pressure of the working masses upon their parliamentary representatives. Neither the former nor the latter can be to the taste of leaders who applaud Baldwin’s conciliatory speeches and express their grief over the dead Curzon. The inner life of the Parliamentary Party as well as its position in Parliament will thereby become the more difficult.

On the other hand there can be no doubt that the capitalist tiger will soon stop purring about gradualness and start to show its claws. Under such conditions will MacDonald manage to retain his leadership until the next election? This question does not of course have a decisive importance and an answer to it can have only a conjectural nature. In any event a further sharpening of relations between the right and the so-called “left” wings of the Labour Party and, what is far more important, a strengthening of revolutionary tendencies in the masses can be expected.

The possessing classes will begin to follow what is taking place in the ranks of the working class with mounting alarm and begin to prepare for the election well in advance. In such conditions the election campaign will acquire an exceedingly tense character. The last election, in which there figured a forged document, put out through all the bourgeois press and at all meetings on a signal from the centre, was only a pale shadow of elections to come.

The election, always assuming that it does not develop directly into a civil war (and generally speaking that is not excluded), will have three possible outcomes: either the Conservatives will return to power but with a sharply reduced majority; or else none of the parties will have a clear majority and the parliamentary position of last year will be reverted to, only in political conditions far less favourable to compromise; or finally an absolute majority will pass to the Labour Party.

In the event of a new victory for the Conservatives the indignation and impatience of the workers will inevitably sharpen. The question of the electoral mechanism and its swindling of constituencies will inevitably come to the fore with all its sharpness. The demand for a new, more democratic parliament will resound with greater force. This may for a while hold back the internal struggle inside the Labour Party to a certain extent but it will however create more favourable conditions for the revolutionary elements.

Will the Conservatives make a peaceful concession over a question which may become for them a question of fate? Highly unlikely. On the contrary, once the question of power becomes sharply posed the Conservatives will attempt to split the workers, finding support from the Thomases at the top and the trade unionists who refuse to pay the political levy at the bottom. By no means excluded is an attempt by a Conservative government to produce isolated clashes, crush them by force, terrify the liberal philistines leading the Labour Party and thrust the movement back.

Could this plan succeed? Such a possibility cannot be ruled out. In so far as the leaders of the Labour Party lead it with their eyes shut, without perspectives and without any understanding of social realities, they make it easier for the Conservatives to strike a blow at the movement at the next and higher stage. Such a variant would contain a more or less serious temporary defeat for the working class but it would, of course, have nothing in common with that peaceful, parliamentary road that the compromisers imagine. On the contrary, a defeat of this sort would prepare for a resumption of the class struggle at the next stage in more decisive revolutionary forms and consequently under new leadership.

If after the next election neither of the parties has a majority, parliament will be prostrated. A repetition of the Labour-Liberal coalition could hardly take place after the experience gained and in a situation of new and sharpened inter-class and inter-party relations at that. A Conservative-Liberal government would be more probable. But this would in essence coincide with the first variant, that of a Conservative majority, that we have just been examining. In event of their failure to reach an agreement, the only parliamentary solution would be a revision of the electoral system. The question of constituencies, second ballots and so forth would become a question of the direct struggle of the two main parties for power. Would a parliament divided between parties neither of which is in a position to take power be capable of passing a new electoral act? That is more than doubtful. It would in any case require powerful pressure from outside. The weakness of a parliament without a secure majority would create a favourable circumstance for such a pressure. But this once again opens up a revolutionary perspective.

However, this intermediate variant does not have for us an intrinsic importance as it is obvious that an unstable parliamentary position must be resolved in one direction or the other, that is to say leading either to a Conservative or to a Labour government. We have examined the first case. As regards the second case, this is precisely the one that presents for us the basic interest from the standpoint of the subject concerning us. The question consequently is: can it be assumed that the Labour Party, having made sure of an overall parliamentary majority at the election and put forward its own government, will carry out by a peaceful road the nationalization of the principal branches of industry and develop socialist construction within the framework and methods of the present parliamentary system?

So as not to complicate the question at the start, we shall assume that MacDonald’s grouping of compromise with the Liberals will retain the party’s official leadership in its hands even during the next election so that a Labour Party victory will lead to the formation of a MacDonald government. It will no longer, however, be a simple repetition of the first experience: first, it will have behind it, according to our supposition, a safe majority; secondly, inter-party relations must inevitably sharpen in the coming period, especially in event of a Labour Party victory. Today when the Conservatives have a firm majority in their hands they tend to treat MacDonald, Thomas and Co. with a patronising condescension. But as the Conservatives are made of more serious stuff than the mock-socialists they will, when left in a minority, certainly show their claws and teeth. There can be no doubt therefore that even if the Conservatives could not prevent the formation of a stable government by the Labour Party by this or that parliamentary or extra-parliamentary method, the minority Conservatives would even in such an event, which might seem to be the most favourable from the standpoint of a peaceful development, do everything in their power to sabotage all the measures of the Labour government by means of the Civil Service, the judiciary, the military, the House of Lords and the courts.

Facing the Conservatives, as well as the remnants of the Liberals, would be the task of discrediting at all costs the first stable government of the working class. For here it is a question of life or death. It is not at all the old struggle between the Liberals and the Conservatives where disagreements never went beyond the bounds of the “family” of the possessing classes. Any serious reforms by a Labour government in the field of taxation, nationalization and a general democratization of government would evoke a mighty flood of enthusiasm from the labouring masses, and – as appetite grows with the eating – successful moderate reforms would inevitably push towards the path of increasingly radical reforms.

In other words, each additional day would further remove the possibility of the Conservatives’ return to power. The Conservatives could not fail to realize very clearly that this was no longer a routine change of government but the beginning of a socialist revolution by parliamentary means. The resources of filibustering, legislative and administrative sabotage that the possessing classes have in their hands are very great for, whatever the parliamentary majority, the whole state apparatus is from top to bottom inextricably tied to the bourgeoisie. Belonging to it are: the whole of the press, the principal organs of local government, the universities, schools, the churches and innumerable clubs and voluntary associations in general. In its hands are the banks, the whole system of public credit, and finally, the transport and trading apparatus, so that the day-to-day food supply of London, including that of its Labour government, depends upon the big capitalist corporations. It is absolutely self-evident that all these gigantic means will be brought into motion with furious violence in order to put a brake on the activity of the Labour government, paralyze its efforts, intimidate it, introduce a split in its parliamentary majority and finally to create a financial panic, dislocation of the food supply, lock-outs, to terrorize the top layers of the labour organizations and render the proletariat powerless. Only an utter fool can fail to understand that the bourgeoisie will move heaven, earth and the nether regions in the event of the actual coming to power of a Labour government.

Today’s so-called British fascism is for the time being more of a curiosity than anything else, but this curiosity is nonetheless symptomatic. The Conservatives are today still sitting too firmly in the saddle to need the aid of the fascists. But a sharpening of inter-party relations, the growth of the persistence and militancy of the working masses and the perspective of a Labour Party victory will inevitably cause the development of fascist tendencies on the right wing of the Conservatives. In a country that has become poorer in recent years. where the position of the small and middle bourgeois has worsened in the extreme and there is chronic unemployment, there will be no shortage of elements for the formation of fascist detachments.

There can therefore be no doubt that at the moment of an election victory for the Labour Party the Conservatives will have behind them not only the official state apparatus but also the unofficial gangs of fascism. They will begin the bloody work of the provocateur before the parliament has even had time to proceed to the first reading of a bill for the nationalization of the coal mines. What is there left for a Labour government to do? Either shamefully capitulate or crush the opposition. The latter decision will however by no means prove so simple. The experience of Ireland bears witness that a solid material force and a tough state apparatus is indispensable to crush this sort of opposition. A Labour government will find itself with neither the former nor the latter. The police, the courts, the army and the territorial forces will always be on the side of the disruptors, saboteurs and fascists. The administrative machinery will have to be broken up and the reactionaries replaced by Labour Party members. There will be no other road. But it is quite obvious that such abrupt state measures, although wholly “legal”, will sharpen the legal and illegal opposition of unified bourgeois reaction in the extreme. In other words: this will also be a path of civil war.

But can the Labour Party when once in power, go about the business so cautiously, so tactfully and so skilfully that the bourgeoisie will, how shall we put it? – not feel the need for active resistance? Such an assumption is in itself of course laughable. It must nevertheless be recognized that just such is the basic hope of MacDonald and Co. When today’s mock-leader of the ILP says that the Labour Party will carry out only those reforms whose realization can be “proved scientifically” (MacDonald’s “science” is already known to us) then he means that a Labour government would look inquiringly into the bourgeoisie’s eyes before every one of its reformist steps. Of course if everything depended upon MacDonald’s good will and his “scientifically” justified reforms things would never come to a civil war – owing to the lack of any ground for one on the part of the bourgeoisie. If a second MacDonald government was like the first one then there would be no cause to raise even the question of the feasibility of socialism by the parliamentary road, for the budget of the City has nothing in common with the budget of socialism.

But even if a Labour government retained its former composition its policy would necessarily undergo a few changes. It is ridiculous to think that the same mighty Labour wave that raises MacDonald to power will immediately afterwards flood deferentially back. No, the demanding mood of the working class will grow in the extreme. Now there will be no longer any place for excuses of dependence on Liberal votes. The opposition of the Conservatives, the House of Lords, the bureaucracy and the monarchy will redouble the energy, impatience and indignation of the workers. The slanders and calumnies of the capitalist press will goad them on. If their own government in these conditions displayed even the most unfeigned energy it would still seem to be too sluggish to the working masses. But there is about as much ground for expecting revolutionary energy from MacDonald, Clynes and Snowden as there is to expect perfume to rise from a rotten beetroot. Between a revolutionary onslaught by the masses and the fierce resistance of the bourgeoisie a MacDonald government would rush about from one side to the other, irritating some, not satisfying others, provoking the bourgeoisie by its inertia, exacerbating the revolutionary impatience of the workers, kindling a civil war and striving at the same time to deprive it of the necessary leadership on the side of the proletariat.

Meanwhile the revolutionary wing would inevitably grow and the most far-sighted resolute and revolutionary elements of the working class would come to the top. On this path a MacDonald government would, sooner or later, depending upon the balance of forces outside parliament, have to surrender its position either to a Conservative government with fascist and not conciliatory tendencies or to a revolutionary government that was really capable of carrying the job through to the finish. In both the one and the other event a new explosion of civil war is inevitable, a sharp collision between the classes all along the line. In the event of the Conservatives’ victory – the ruthless smashing of workers’ organizations; in the event of the victory of the proletariat – the shattering of the resistance of the exploiters by means of the revolutionary dictatorship. Is this not to your liking, my Lords? We cannot help it. The fundamental springs of motion depend as little upon us as they do upon you. We can “decree” nothing. We can only analyze.

Among MacDonald’s “left” self-supporters and half-opponents who like him assume a democratic stance, there are some who will probably say: obviously if the bourgeois classes attempt to put up resistance to a democratically-elected Labour government, the latter will not balk at methods of the most severe coercion – but this will be not a class dictatorship, rather the power of a democratic state, ... and so on and so forth.

It is quite futile to put the argument on this plane. To think in fact that the fate of society can be determined by whether there are elected to parliament 307 Labour MPs i.e. a minority, or 308, i.e. a majority, and not by the effective balance of class forces at the moment of the sharp clash of classes over the basic questions of their existence – to think in that way would mean to be completely captive to the fetish of parliamentary arithmetic.

And let us ask, what happens if the Conservatives, faced with a mounting revolutionary flood and the danger of a Labour government, not only refuse to democratize the electoral system but on the contrary introduce new restrictions? Unlikely! some ninny will object who does not understand that where it is a matter of the life and death of classes anything is likely.

But already in top circles in Britain a great deal of preparatory to-ing and fro-ing is going on over the reorganization and strengthening of the House of Lords. MacDonald recently stated in connection with this that he could understand the concern of some Conservative lords but “why Liberals should make endeavours in the same direction I cannot understand”. The sage cannot understand why the Liberals are reinforcing a second line of trenches against the offensive of the working class. He does not understand this because he himself is a liberal, and a profoundly provincial, petty and limited one at that. He does not understand that the bourgeoisie has serious intentions, that it is preparing for a mortal struggle and that the crown and the House of Lords will occupy a prominent place in that struggle. Having curtailed the rights of the House of Commons, that is to say, carrying out a legal coup d’état, the Conservatives will, despite all the difficulties of such an undertaking, still emerge in a more advantageous situation than if they had had to organize opposition to a Labour government that had successfully reinforced itself.

But obviously in such an event, some “left’ phrasemonger will exclaim, we should call upon the masses to resist. To use revolutionary force, does he mean? So does it turn out that revolutionary force is not only permissible but in fact inevitable in a case where the Conservatives carry out a preemptive coup d’état, by the most legal parliamentary means? But in that case is it not simpler to say that revolutionary force is expedient when and where it strengthens the position of the proletariat, weakens or repulses the enemy and accelerates the socialist development of society?

But heroic promises to put up lightning resistance in the event the Conservatives should “dare” and so forth are not worth a rotten egg. One cannot lull the masses day in and day out with claptrap about a peaceful, painless transition to socialism and then at the first solid punch on the nose summon the masses to an armed response. This is the surest way of assisting reaction in the rout of the proletariat. To prove equal to a revolutionary repulse, the masses must be ideologically, organizationally and materially prepared for it. They must understand the inevitability of a sharpening of the class struggle and of its turning at a certain stage into a civil war. The political education of the working class and the selection of its leading personnel must be adjusted to such a perspective. The illusions of compromise must be fought day in and day out, that is to say, war to the death must be declared on MacDonaldism. Thus and only thus does the question stand today.

Leaving aside the concrete conditions, what can now be said is that MacDonald did have a chance in the past of greatly easing the transition to socialism and reducing the upheavals of civil war to a minimum. That was during the first coming to power of the Labour Party. If MacDonald had immediately placed parliament face to face with a decisive programme (the liquidation of the monarchy and the House of Lords, a heavy tax on capital, the nationalization of the principal means of production and so forth) and had, having dissolved parliament, appealed to the country with a revolutionary determination, he could have hoped to catch the possessing classes to some extent off guard, not letting them gather their forces, shattering them with the pressure of the working masses and seizing and renewing the state apparatus before British fascism had time to form itself – and thus take the revolution through the gate of parliament, “legalize” it and lead it to a complete victory with a firm hand.

But it is absolutely obvious that such a possibility is a purely theoretical one. It would require another party with other leaders, and that would in turn presuppose other circumstances. If we construe this possibility in relation to the past then it is only in order to reveal the more sharply its impossibility in the future. The first experience of a Labour government for all its cowardly incompetence formed however an important historical warning for the ruling classes. They will no longer be caught off guard, now they follow the life of the working class and all the processes taking place within it with ten times more vigilance. “Not under any circumstances shall we fire first,” the most humane, devout and Christian Baldwin stated, apparently quite unexpectedly, in his speech in parliament 5th March. And on the Labour benches there were fools who applauded these words. But Baldwin does not for a minute doubt that he will have to fire. He merely wants in the forthcoming civil war to put the responsibility, at least in the eyes of the intermediate classes, on to the enemy, that is, the workers. In exactly the same way the diplomacy of each country strives in advance to transfer the blame for a coming war on to the other side.

Of course the proletarian party also has an interest in throwing responsibility for a civil war back on to the capitalist bosses and in the final count the Labour Party has and will have far greater political and moral grounds for this. Admittedly, an assault upon the House of Commons by the Conservatives would form a most “noble” motive for agitation but such a circumstance has in the end but a third – or fifth – rate importance. Here we are examining not the question of the causes of a revolutionary conflict but the question of how to take control of the state with the object of a transition to socialism. Parliament cannot in the slightest degree guarantee a peaceful transition: revolutionary class force is indispensable and unavoidable. This must be prepared for and trained for. The masses must be educated and tempered in a revolutionary way. The first condition for this is an intransigent struggle against the corrupting spirit of MacDonaldism.

On 25th March a House of Lords committee solemnly resolved that the title of the Duke of Somerset must pass to a certain Mr. Seymour who would thus henceforth acquire the right to legislate in the House of Lords and this decision in favour of Seymour depended upon the settlement of another preliminary circumstance: when a certain Colonel Seymour was married in 1787 to give Britain a few generations later a new lord, was his wife’s first husband at that time alive or dead in Calcutta?

This question is as we can see one of prime importance to the fate of British democracy. In the same issue of the Daily Herald with this instructive episode of the first husband of the wife of the forefather of the legislator, Seymour, the editors defend themselves from accusations of desiring to establish Soviet methods in Britain: no, no, we are only for trade with the Soviets but in no case for a Soviet regime in Britain.

But what is so bad, we permit ourselves to ask, about Soviet methods applied to British technique, British industry and the cultural habits of the British working class? Let the Daily Herald ponder a little the consequences that would flow from the introduction of the Soviet system in Great Britain.

In the first place royalty would be abolished and Mrs. Snowden would be spared the necessity of grieving over the excessive labour of members of the Royal Family. In the second place the House of Lords where Messrs. Seymours legislate by force of a mandate given them by the timely death of the first husband of their great-great grandmother in Calcutta, would be abolished. In the third place there would be abolition of the present parliament, whose falsity and impotence are recorded even in the Daily Herald nearly every day. The land parasitism of the landlords would be done away with forever. The basic branches of industry would pass into the hands of the working class which in Britain comprises the overwhelming majority of the people. The mighty apparatuses of the Conservative and Liberal newspapers and publishers could be used for the education of the working class. “Give me a dictatorship over Fleet Street for only a month and I shall destroy the hypnosis!” exclaimed Robert Williams in 1920. Williams himself has defected and Fleet Street as before awaits a proletarian hand.

Workers would elect their representatives not within the framework of those fraudulent parliamentary constituencies that Britain is split up into today but according to factory and plant. Councils of workers’ deputies would renew the government apparatus from bottom to top. Privileges of birth and wealth would disappear along with the falsified democracy based upon financial support from the banks. A genuine workers’ democracy would come to power that combined management of the economy with the political government of the country. Such a government that for the first time in history really had its support in the people would inaugurate free, equal and brotherly relations with India, Egypt and the other present colonies. It would immediately conclude a powerful political and military alliance with workers’ and peasants’ Russia. Such an alliance would be designed for many years ahead. The economic plans of both countries would in their corresponding sectors be co-ordinated for a number of years. The exchange of goods, products and services between these two complementary countries would raise the material and spiritual well-being of the labouring masses of Britain as also of Russia.

Surely this would not be too bad a thing? So why is it necessary to try to vindicate oneself from accusations of striving to introduce a Soviet order into Britain? By terrorizing the public opinion of workers the bourgeoisie wants to instil them with a salutary fear of an assault upon the present British regime while the labour press, instead of ruthlessly exposing this policy of reactionary hypnosis, adapts in cowardly fashion to it and thus supports it. This too is MacDonaldism.

The British opportunists like those in Europe have repeatedly said that the Bolsheviks had arrived at a dictatorship only by the logic of their position and counter to all their principles. In this connection it would be highly instructive to examine the evolution of Marxist and revolutionary thought in, general on the question of democracy. Here we are forced to confine ourselves to just two brief testimonies. As early as 1887 Lafargue, a close pupil of Marx and linked to him by close personal bonds, sketched the general course of revolution in France in these lines:

The working class will rule in the industrial cities, which will all become revolutionary centres and form a federation in order to attract the countryside over to the side of the revolution and overcome the resistance that will be organized in such trading and maritime cities as Havre, Bordeaux, Marseilles and so on. In the industrial cities the socialists will have to seize power in local institutions, arm the workers and organize them militarily: “He who has arms has bread,” said Blanqui. They will open the gates of the prisons to let out the petty thieves and put under lock and key the big thieves like the bankers, capitalists, big industrialists, the big property owners and so on. Nothing worse will be done to them but they will be regarded as hostages answerable for the good behaviour of the of their class. The revolutionary power will be formed by means of a simple seizure and only when the new power is fully in control of the situation, will the socialists seek confirmation for their actions by “universal” suffrage. The bourgeoisie have for so long refused the ballot box to the propertyless classes that they must not be surprised if all the former capitalists are deprived of the franchise until the revolutionary party triumphs.

For Lafargue the fate of the revolution is not decided by an appeal to some constituent assembly but by the revolutionary organization of the masses in the process of the struggle against the enemy:

“When local revolutionary institutions are established the latter will have to organize by means of delegations or otherwise the central power upon which will be placed the obligation to take overall measures in the interests of the revolution and of impeding the formation of a reactionary party.”

It is self-evident that there is not yet in these lines even a slightly formed characterization of the Soviet system which by and large forms not an a principle but the outcome of revolutionary experience. However, the construction of a central revolutionary power by means of delegation from local revolutionary organs, conducting a struggle against reaction comes very close to the Soviet system in idea. And at any rate as regards formal democracy then Lafargue’s attitude to it is characterized with a remarkable clarity. The power can only be obtained by the working class by means of a revolutionary seizure. “‘Universal’ suffrage”, as Lafargue ironically puts it, “can be introduced only after the proletariat has taken control of the apparatus of the state”. But even then the bourgeois must be deprived of the right to vote and the big capitalists must be transformed into the status of hostages.

Anyone with the least conception of the nature of the relations between Lafargue and Marx can be in absolutely no doubt that Lafargue had developed his conceptions on the dictatorship of the proletariat on the basis of frequent conversations with Marx. If Marx himself had not dwelt in detail on the elucidation of these questions then it is only because, of course, he considered the character of the revolutionary dictatorship of the class to be self-evident. In any case what was said by Marx on this score, not only in 1848 and 1849 but also in 1871 with regard to the Paris Commune leaves no doubt that Lafargue was only developing Marx’s idea.

However, not only Lafargue stood for class dictatorship as opposed to democracy. This idea had been already advanced with adequate precision back in the time of Chartism. In the organ The Poor Man’s Guardian the following “sole true reform” was advanced in connection with the sought-for extension of the franchise: “It is but common justice that people that make the goods should have the sole privilege of making the laws.” The significance of Chartism lies in the fact that the whole subsequent history of the class struggle was as if summarized in advance, during that decade. Afterwards the movement turned backwards in many respects. It broadened its base and amassed experience. On a new and higher basis it will inevitably return to many of the ideas and methods of Chartism.

Last Chapter   |   Where is Britain Going?   |   Next Chapter


1. In 1925 when Trotsky wrote this book fascism had appeared primarily as the reactionary terrorist movement against the working class organizations that had formed the base of opposition to a right-wing bonapartist dictatorship in Italy. Only in 1926 did Mussolini’s regime acquire all the features of fascism as it became known in Germany and Spain when he abolished parliament, established corporate unions and outlawed opposition parties.

2. Secret society formed in the southern states of the USA after the Civil War, violently hostile to black people and Catholics. Following the First World War it became increasingly noted for its acts of terrorism against socialists, pacifists and blacks.

3. The ruling family of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1701 to 1871 and of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918 when the monarchy was overthrown in the November Revolution.

4. On 3rd June, 1907 the Russian Tsar dissolved the State Duma, arrested the Social-Democratic deputies and set up the Third Duma with a more restricted franchise excluding the peasantry. 3rd June marked the beginning of the period of harshest repression and reaction in Russia.

5. The reformist wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party that emerged in 1903 and against which Lenin and the Bolsheviks fought, finally splitting from it in 1912.

6. Women from the ages of 21 to 29 obtained the vote only in April 1928, three years after Trotsky wrote this book.

7. The electoral system of first past the post in each constituency has always made it possible for parties to gain more seats with fewer total votes. This nearly always favoured the Conservatives, because Labour won huge majorities in urban seats in contrast to Conservative wins on a narrower margin in rural and semi-rural areas. [This effect is less noticeable today. – Note by ERC]

8. The main polemic on which these attacks were based is to be found in Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder.

Volume 2 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

return return return return return

Last updated on: 2.7.2007