by H. N. Brailsford
At the close of the Communist trial, the judge at the Old Bailey summoned seven of his prisoners to choose between a six months' sentence and the opinions expressed in this book. They are, if we must read this summons in its literal meaning, prohibited opinions on which the law has put its ban. If this were really our case, then the thesis which Trotsky maintains in these pages is established already. For we should have to admit that even before violence had been attempted, the mere appearance in our politics of a tiny revolutionary party has sufficed to frighten the ruling class out of its respect for the liberty of opinion on which democracy is founded. It needs no energetic exercise of the imagination to predict from this episode what would happen if the challenge grew to a formidable threat.
But the battle for freedom is not yet lost. It is precisely those of us who differ from Trotsky's reading of our inevitable destiny who are bound in duty to welcome the appearance of this book. If it may come freely from the press, if it may be discussed, as it deserves to be, with equal freedom for assent or dissent, then, for the moment at least, the nightmare of this trial is dissipated. Of all parties in Great Britain, the Labour Party has the chief interest in demanding for this ruthless attack upon itself both liberty and attention. We can hold our faith in the democratic approach to Socialism as a reasoned conviction only if the opposite opinion may be argued in perfect liberty, and only then if it finds worthy and capable advocates. If the law forbids a man to draw from the study of history and the survey of contemporary politics the conclusion that force is the only adequate instrument for social change, in that moment our contrary opinion ceases to be a reasoned conviction and becomes an imposed dogma.
The opinion which Trotsky maintains has never been more brilliantly argued. Behind its wit and its logic there is the prestige of experience. The pamphleteer who tells us that if we mean to achieve Socialism we cannot escape civil war has himself conducted a civil war against terrific odds to a triumphant conclusion. It is obvious, moreover, that he has taken pains to equip himself for his task and has applied his versatile intellect to the study of our history and our contemporary life. He makes some mistakes,  it is true, in, his facts, but none of these really invalidate his argument.
His book is a slashing attack on our whole movement. We shall make a grave mistake if we allow its manner to blind us to the fact that he has a strong case to argue. He assails Left and Right with equal vehemence. Sometimes in his criticisms of persons he is arrogant and offensive; sometimes his wit is irresistible; sometimes (it seems to me) he assails things in our record and muddles in our thinking which deserve to be assailed. But the odds are that with these ruthless Russian methods he will produce in the minds of most English readers an effect which is far from his intention.
Trotsky is far too able a man not to realise that there are differences in the English and Russian national characters. He emphasizes again and again the lesson that history has made each of us what we are. Yet the more he displays his acquaintance with the external facts of our history, the less does he seem to understand us. His attitude to the religious beliefs of most of our readers is for me the test of his failure to understand us - and this I may say calmly, since I am myself an. agnostic. No Russian that I ever met, even when he had been long in England, ever grasped the fact that English religion with its long tradition of open discussion, the democratic form of its 'free' churches, its emphasis on conduct rather than ritual or belief, and its relative freedom from other worldliness, has literally nothing in common with the Eastern Church. I wonder, would Trotsky's conviction that Protestant religion is necessarily a 'bourgeois' creed which no worker can honestly profess survive a visit to a Dissenting chapel in a mining district? Has he ever read Bunyan, or glanced at the revolutionary history of Anabaptists and Fifth Monarchy men? What would he make of the queer disputes between the middle-class Freethinker Robert Owen (who hated class war) and the pioneers of English Trade Unionism, who clung with equal obstinacy to their Christianity and their belief in the class war?
One feels the same failure of a man from another world to understand us when Trotsky laughs at the idea that a Labour majority in Parliament will ever be allowed to do anything fundamental.
Assuredly it will be a tremendous adventure; certainly it will want will and courage. No sane man will deny the risks to which Trotsky points. But equally, I think, every man who realises how deeply the Parliamentary tradition and the instinct of obedience to the majority are graven on the English mind will admit that the adventure is worth attempting. Not only in Parliament, but in churches, Trade Unions, and even clubs, this respect for the majority has been inculcated on generations of Englishmen. What can a Russian know of that? What estimate can he make of the power of tradition in our older civilization? We should answer, in the last resort, that if he is right, if the propertied class will in the end defend its privileges by force, then we prefer to fight, as Cromwell fought, with the Parliament behind us, and the rights of a majority on our side.
But it is not the business of an introducer to enter into controversy with the author. The book with all its vitality and assurance is doubly valuable - as a revelation of the Russian mind, and a criticism of our English ways. It is the work of a shrewd and realistic intellect. It will not convert many of us to the Russian standpoint. But we shall fail to use it to the full unless we take it as a challenge that forces us to think out our position anew. Trotsky sees, as some of us do not, the difficulty of our unparalleled enterprise. He realizes that the tactics which will avail to transform an old society cannot be the tactics of an opportunist Liberalism. The book may confirm us in our resolve by all means to avoid civil war, but it is a formidable challenge to us to test our own sincerity, and to ask ourselves whether, with a will and a courage that equal the audacity of these Russian pioneers, we are moving with single minds towards the achievement of our goal.
The London edition of Where is Britain Going? has appeared with an unexpected foreword by Brailsford, the former bourgeois radical who after the war joined the Independent Labour Party and now edits its organ. Mr. Brailsford. despite his socialist sympathies has not ceased to be a radical. And as moderate liberals stand at the head of the Independent Labour Party Brailsford has ended up on the left wing.
The fact that it is not in backward China nor even in Japan, where radical bourgeois publishers consider it still useful to issue books by Russian communists, but in Britain with her crying social contradictions that the appearance of a book by a communist with a patronizing foreword by a member of MacDonald's party is possible, serves in the eyes of any Marxist as evidence of the inconceivable backwardness of British political ideology as compared with her material relations. In this judgement which needs no proof there is at once a condemnation of this sort of unexpected literary 'bloc'. We do need a unity of front with the working masses. But the unity or a semi-unity of a literary front with Brailsford signifies but an aggravation of that ideological chaos in which the British labour movement is rich enough as it is.
There is however no mistake here on Brailsford's part. His historical mission consists in 'correcting' Thomas and MacDonald, in creating a safety valve for the discontent of the masses, in blurring the edges and in dissolving cogent thought into a formless 'leftism'. It is of political advantage to Brailsford, whose intentions we do not in the least suspect (though we do bear firmly in mind that it is from reformist intentions that highways to hell are built), to appear within the same covers as us. The working masses of Britain are immeasurably more to the left than Brailsford. By 'fraternizing' with Moscow communists Brailsford camouflages his adherence to a party which expels British communists.
But we have different tasks. We do not want masks. Our first obligation is that of destroying ideological masks. The British working masses are immeasurably more to the left than Brailsford but they have not yet found the appropriate language for their own inclinations. The rubbish of the past still separates the leftward-moving masses from the programme of communism with a thick layer. So much more impermissible is it then to add even a shred to this garbage. In fighting for the interests of the miners the communists are prepared to take several steps alongside Mr. Brailsford in this struggle. But with no ideological bloc and no united front in the field of theory and programme l And this very Brailsford himself puts it thus with regard to the American edition of our book: 'We are separated from these people by a gulf.' Correct, correct and three times correct! But from the standpoint of Marxism there is nothing more criminal than to throw literary olive branches across this political gulp. the worker who is deceived by the camouflage will set his foot down and fall through.
For Mr. Brailsford camouflage is necessary. He makes use of a revolutionary book in order to fight against revolution. Brailsford, a defender of democratic illusions and parliamentary fetishes is saying in his foreword: 'Just look, in our British democracy we can publish a Bolshevik book without fear, thereby demonstrating the breadth and power of democracy.' Moreover by his little demonstration Brailsford would have liked to gloss over the, for him, inconvenient outcome of the recent trial of the communists. Brailsford himself openly admits this. The sentencing of British communists now, when the revolution is taking shape only at a remote distance, is an immeasurably sharper and more convincing refutation of democratic illusions than all our books and pamphlets. Brailsford understands this. In fighting for the preservation of democratic illusions he 'greets' the appearance of our book in these words: 'If it may come freely from the Press in public, if it may be discussed ... then the nightmare of this trial is dissipated.' By sparing democratic illusions at such a cheap price Brailsford wants to give the British proletariat the idea that once a revolutionary book accompanied by an appropriate dose of antidote in the shape of a pacifist foreword appears on the British book market it is thereby proven that the British bourgeoisie will tamely bow its head when the banks, land, mines, factories and shipyards start to be taken 'democratically' away from them. In other words Brailsford unceremoniously admonishes our book with concepts directly contrary to its aim, sense, spirit and letter.
It is not surprising if Brailsford reproachfully describes the 'Russian methods' of polemic as 'ruthless' and hopes that they will produce in the British reader quite a different impression from that intended. Let us wait for the 'impressions'. Readers vary. Methods of polemic flow from the essence of the politics. 'Ruthlessness' is caused by the necessity to reveal the reality behind a deliberate falsehood. Nowhere in Europe does canonized hypocrisy - 'cant' - play such a role as in Great Britain. Different political groupings and even the most 'extreme' of them are, when fighting against each other, accustomed not to touch upon certain questions or to call certain things by their proper names. The reason is that from time immemorial the political struggle has been waged inside the ranks of the possessing classes who have never forgotten that a third party is listening in. The system of' conventions, implications and reservations has over the ages worked itself downwards and today finds it most reactionary expression in the liberal Labour Party including its radical opposition wing. Here it is not a question of literary style but of politics. Our polemic repels Brailsford because it lays the class contradictions absolutely bare. It is quite true that in those enlightened readers who have been brought up in the parliamentary tradition of political cant this polemic will produce not sympathy but annoyance. But Brailsford notwithstanding this is just the effect that the author, rightly, intends. It is also quite true that politicians with such an education still form a dense stratum between the working class and the programme of communism. Nevertheless, in Britain too, class realities are more powerful than traditional hypocrisy. Once aroused, British workers by blazing themselves a trail through the thicket of inherited prejudices - both those of Baldwin and Brailsford - will find in our polemic a particle of their own struggle. And this again will be the effect that we intend.
Brailsford's foreword represents an intermixture of immoderate praise and moderate censure. The praise relates to what is secondary, the form of the book. The censure is directed against the essence. The immoderate nature of the praise is to lend extra weight to the careful attacks on Bolshevism. Brailsford operates expediently. He fulfils his assignment. He is interested in camouflage. But we need complete clarity. That is why we equally reject both Brailsford's praises and his censure.
Brailsford operates expediently but he is utterly impotent all the same. But then this is not his fault. He cannot leap out of the historical task of centrism; blurring realities in order to sustain illusions. We have seen how ridiculously Brailsford dealt with the lessons of the trial of the communists. This same impotence lies at the root of the whole of his appraisal of our book. On the one hand for him it emerges that the book is based on the knowledge. of facts and an understanding of the logic of their development. On the other, it turns out that the author of the book is 'a man of another world' who is incapable of comprehending either the nature of British Protestantism or the force of parliamentary traditions. It is not only in parliament, but also in the church, trade unions and even clubs, Brailsford tries to convince us, that respect for the majority has been instilled into generations of British people. 'What does a Russian know about this and how can he assess the force of traditions in our ancient civilization?' Brailsford's arrogant helplessness lies in his method: he does not understand the material basis of social development as the decisive factor. He halts before traditions, before the ideological residue of old struggles and thinks that this crust is an eternal one. He does not know the simplest laws of the dependence of ideology upon class foundations. Arguing with him on these matters is as good as trying to convince the inventor of perpetuum mobile who denies the law of the conservation of energy. It is plain to any literate Marxist that the more firmly the conservative forms of British society have ossified, the more catastrophically new eruptions of the social volcano will explode the crust of the old traditions and institutions.
The ideas and prejudices which have been handed down from generation to generation become a factor of great historical force. This 'independent' force of prejudices condensed by history is only too evident in Brailsford himself. But material facts are nevertheless stronger than their reflection in ideas and traditions. And of this it is not hard to be convinced at the present day, faced with the most instructive picture that we have of British liberalism in its death throes. Can one find another tradition more powerful than this? At its source Liberalism was connected with the first Protestant movements and consequently with the revolution of the 17th century which opened the history of the new England. And yet this mighty liberalism is before our eyes warping and crumbling like a sheet of parchment tossed on to a hot hearth. Living facts are more powerful than dead ideas. The decline of the middle classes in Britain and the decline of British capitalism in the world are material facts which are mercilessly settling the fate of British liberalism. The figure of the agrarian reformer Gracchus Lloyd George who in the evening denies what he said in the morning in itself forms a marvellous mockery of liberal traditions.
We heard from Brailsford that for 'a man of another world' an understanding of 'how deeply the instinct of submission to the will of the majority is stamped in the consciousness of the British people' is unattainable. But it is a remarkable thing that when Brailsford descends from the heights of doctrinairism into the sphere of living political facts he himself unexpectedly reveals at times the mystery of 'submission to the will of the majority'. Thus in tracing the course of the last Liberal conference which against all its 'traditions' and more important, against its own wishes adopted (in half-measure) Lloyd George's charlatan programme of land nationalization, Brailsford wrote in the New Leader of 26th February: 'The payment of expenses from a central fund (in Lloyd George's hands) and the provision of a gratuitous luncheon apparently created the right sort of majority.' Luncheons created a majority! From these realistic words it is evident that the democratic instinct of submission to the majority instilled by a number of British generations and unattainable to men 'of another world' every so often requires in addition free roast beef and other auxiliary resources to display its omnipotence. Brailsford could scarcely write better words than these. Our idealist has here collided with the thing that usually spoils metaphysical schema: a slice of reality. It has been long known that German Kantian professors in the course of devising an eternal morality stumbled on such obstacles as inadequate wages, intrigues of their colleagues or a shrewish mother-in-law. The democratic socialist Brailsford has slipped up, far more dangerously than he might imagine, on roast beef. Of course we people of another world are incapable of appreciating the noble worship by all British people of parliamentary methods. But then why embarrass us with the report that inside the Liberal Party, the creator of parliamentarism, a majority is achieved by means of hand-outs and a series of lunches, free, but, we must suppose, quite copious? A majority achieved in this way is very like a fraudulent or falsified majority. But here of course at the moment only the struggle for parliamentary seats and portfolios is at stake. What will happen when the issue is posed point-blank: who should have state power: the bourgeoisie or the proletariat? And who shall have the property: the capitalist or the people? If through considerations of parliamentary careerism the leaders of the Liberal Party successfully set bribery and falsification into motion then at what violent means and at what crimes would the ruling classes stop when the whole of their historical fate is on the order of the day? I very much fear that if., out of the two of us, one is a man of another world who does not understand the most important thing about British politics, then it is Mr. Brailsford. He is a man of another era. The new era is ours.
In his foreword Brailsford does not miss the opportunity to take up a defence of religion. It is curious that in doing so he calls himself an agnostic. In Britain this word tends to be used as a polite, drawing room, emasculated name for an atheist. More often it characterizes a semi-atheism which is unsure of itself, i.e. the variety of idealism which on the question of God abstains from voting, to put it in parliamentary language. And so we see here once again the force of cant, convention, the half-truth., the half-lie and philosophical hypocrisy. Implying his atheism and calling himself an agnostic Brailsford here takes on the defence of religion. These are the ambiguous customs which British revolutionaries will have to expel from the ranks of the labour movement. Enough of hide-and-seek, call things by their names!
Brailsford defends religion by denying its class character. Not a single Russian is able, don't you see, to understand what British religion is, with its 'traditions of free discussion, its democratic form. and its relative freedom from any other-worldliness' and so on and so forth. There is not a single democratic priest who could pronounce a more apologetic speech in defence of religious dope than does our agnostic'. His evidence in support of the Church must acquire the greater weight since he declares himself to be an unbeliever. Here is duplicity and falsehood at every step. While attempting to refute the bourgeois character of Protestantism, Brailsford accusingly asks whether Trotsky has ever been to a Non-Conformist chapel in a mining district, whether he has read Bunyan and whether he has ever taken a look at the revolutionary history of the Anabaptists and the men of the Fifth Monarchy. I must admit that I have not been in a miners' Non-Conformist chapel and that I am very insufficiently familiar with the historical facts of which Brailsford speaks. I promise to visit a mining district and its chapel as soon as Brailsford's party takes power and permits me in accordance with the principles of democracy, unimpeded passage through the possessions of His Majesty. I will attempt to acquaint myself with Bunyan and the history of the Anabaptists in the Fifth Monarchy before that date. But Brailsford is cruelly mistaken if he thinks that the facts and circumstances he has enumerated can alter a general evaluation of religion and in particular of Protestantism. I once visited, together with Lenin and Krupskaya, a 'free church' in London where we heard socialist speeches interspersed with psalms. The preacher was a printer who had just returned from Australia. He spoke about the social revolution. The congregation begged God in the psalms that he establish such an order where there would be neither poor nor rich. Such was my first practical acquaintance with the British labour movement nearly a quarter of a century ago(1902). What role, I asked myself at the time, does a psalm play in connection with a r evolutionary speech? That of a safety-yalve. Concentrated vapours of discontent issued forth beneath the dome of the Church and rose into the sky. This is the basic function of the Church in class society.
To be sure different Churches fulfil this task in different ways. The Orthodox Church, while not having overcome primitive peasant mythology as time went on, turned into an external bureaucratic apparatus existing alongside the apparatus of Tsarism. The priest walked hand in hand with the constable and any development of sectarian dissent was met with repression. It was for this reason that the roots of the Orthodox Church proved to be so weak in the popular consciousness and especially in the industrial centres. In shaking off the bureaucratic ecclesiastical apparatus the Russian worker in his overwhelming mass and together with him, the peasant milkmaid, shook off religious thinking altogether. Protestantism is quite another matter: it came to its feet as the banner of the bourgeoisie and the small people of the towns and the countryside against the crowns of the privileged and courtly, and against the cavaliers and the bishops. The genesis and development of Protestantism is so closely bound up with the development of urban culture and the struggle of the bourgeoisie for a firmer and more stable position in society that there is really no need to prove it. The bourgeoisie could not of course fight successfully for, and then retain power if it had not made its banner to some degree or other the banner of lower social layers that is, the artisans, peasants and workers. In its struggle against the nobility the bourgeoisie tied the lower layers very firmly to itself using the Protestant religion. Of course the Scottish woodcutter would not put into his psalms the same subjective content as the respectable Mr. Dombey, or his honourable grandson sitting in the House of Commons either to the right or to the left of Mr. MacDonald. And just the same applies to Liberalism too. The Liberal workers, not the trade union bureaucrats but the proletariat, understood the Liberal programme completely differently from Gladstone. They introduced a class instinct into their Liberalism but a helpless one. But will Brailsford on these grounds dispute that Liberalism was the programme of the middle and small merchant, the industrial bourgeoisie and the bourgeois intelligentsia socially rising upwards?
It is true, and this is what Brailsford wants to adduce, that many petty-bourgeois radicals and opponents of the class struggle were inclined towards atheism while the pioneers of trade unionism stood in equal measure for Christianity and for the class struggle. But there is no contradiction here with what has been said above. Marxism in no way teaches that every man receives his share of religious and philosophical convictions depending upon the scale of his income or his wages. The question is more complex. Religious, as indeed any other, ideas being born out of the soil of the material conditions of life and above all the soil of class contradictions, only gradually clear themselves a way and then live on by force of conservatism longer than the needs which gave birth to them and disappear completely only under the effect of serious social shocks and crises. The petty-bourgeois British radicals from the utilitarian and Owenite schools, could be militant atheists only as long as they seriously believed that they possessed the painless means of solving all social problems. But in proportion as class contradictions sharpened, militant radicalism disappeared or moved over into the Labour Party bringing into it its threadbare idealistic arrogance and its political impotence. The organizers of the trade unions who had been thrown up by workers' strikes could not renounce the basis of their activity and the source of their influence, that is the class struggle. But they at the same time remained within the narrow Emits of trade unionism not leading the struggle to the necessary revolutionary conclusions and this allowed and still does allow them to reconcile trade unionism with Christianity, i.e. with a discipline which imposes upon the proletariat the faith and morality of another class,
It is completely indisputable that the revolution will find a good share of the Welsh miners still in the grip of religious prejudices. It cannot be doubted that despite this the miners will do their job. From some prejudices they will free themselves in the heat of the struggle while from others only after victory. But we categorically deny that the Welsh miners and the British proletariat in general can be shown the correct path by people who have not separated themselves from infantile nonsense, do not understand the structure of human society, do not grasp its dynamics, do not understand the role of religion in it and to one degree or another are ready to subordinate their actions to the precepts of ecclesiastical morality which unites oppressors with oppressed. Such leaders are unreliable. From them the working class can expect capitulation or direct treachery - justified by the Sermon on the Mount - at the most crucial hour.
The traditional force of British Protestantism is clear to us. Brailsford in vain depicts the matter as if we were judging Protestantism by Orthodoxy. Nonsense. We Marxists are accustomed to taking historical phenomena in their social context, in their concrete aspect, and to judge them not by their names but by the content which living, that is class-divided, society imparts to them. The traditional power of Protestantism is great but not limitless. In its very essence, that is as a religious and not a political teaching, Protestantism is more elastic than Liberalism, which represents its younger brother. But the elasticity of Protestantism has its limits. The profound turn in the fate of Britain predetermines them. All her national traditions will undergo a test. What was shaped by centuries will be destroyed in the course of years. The revolution will bring a process of verification based on inexorable facts which will reach into those last refuges of consciousness where the inherited religious prejudices are concealed. Our task is to assist this cleansing operation and not to block its way as the ambiguous agnostics do by implying their atheism only to defend religion.
We can see in this way that on the most important questions on which the historical life and death of the proletariat depend we and Brailsford stand on different sides of the ideological barricade. That is why our appearance before the British reader within the same covers forms the crudest misunderstanding. With the present article I am correcting this misunderstanding as far as I can.
From Pravda, 14th March, 1926
by Bertrand Russell
Trotsky's new book is one of the most interesting that I have read for a long time, and up to a certain point, extraordinarily penetrating. There are certain errors of fact, but they are not important - e.g., that Joseph Chamberlain left Gladstone on the Protectionist issue, and that the present Parliamentary constituencies are gerrymandered so as to give a great advantage to the Conservatives.
On the politics of the British Labour Movement, Trotsky is remarkably well informed. A great deal of his criticism is to my mind, quite convincing. I leave on one side his personalities about leaders, which will be liked or disliked according as the reader dislikes or likes the leader in question. What is more important is his complaint that the Labour Party lacks a coherent theoretical outlook. Take, for example, the question of Republicanism. He quotes British Labour pronouncements to the effect that the royal authority does no harm, and that a king is cheaper than a president. He argues that in a time of critical conflict the bourgeoisie can make use of the royal authority with great success, as the concentration point for all the extra-parliamentary, that is to say, the real forces directed against the working class .... To proclaim a socialist programme, and at the same time declare that the royal authority 'does not hinder' and works out cheaper, is absolutely the same as, for example, acknowledging materialistic science and making use of the incantation of a sorcerer for toothache, on the ground that the sorcerer is cheaper.
To hope to achieve Socialism without Republicanism is the sort of thing that could only occur among English-speaking people; it would hardly be possible for men with any profound knowledge of history, or any understanding of the economic and psychological links between different institutions. In spite of Mr. Brailsford's remark to the contrary in the introduction, I should agree with Trotsky in saying the same of the Churches. Personal religion is a private matter; but organized religion, in the modern world, must be a reactionary force, even when its adherents ardently desire the opposite.
'But,' I shall be told, 'how many Labour members would you get into Parliament if you attacked the monarchy and antagonized the Churches?' Here we come up against a most disastrous fallacy. It is thought that the important thing is to get Socialists elected to Parliament by hook or by crook, even if, in order to get elected, they have had to let it be understood that they will refrain from carrying out large parts of the Socialist programme. To secure a Government composed of professing Socialists is not the same thing as to secure Socialism; this has been proved in many European countries since the war. Socialism will never be actually established until the leaders are in earnest in desiring it; by this I mean not merely that they should favour it in the abstract, but that they should be willing, for its sake, to forego the amenities of bourgeois success, which are enjoyed by successful Labour politicians so long as they refrain from abolishing bourgeois privileges.
Another important point is illustrated by the analogy of Cromwell, upon which Trotsky dwells at some length. Cromwell, unlike most of the Parliament men, expressed a preference for soldiers convinced of the justice of the cause rather than 'gentlemen,' and only by this means succeeded in achieving victory in spite of the opposition of his superior officers. In our day, in England, there seems to be hardly anyone whose belief in anything is sufficient to make him indifferent to 'gentlemanliness'; certain Labour leaders are constantly led into weaknesses by the desire to have their opponents consider them gentlemen.' They do not seem to realize that the ideal of a 'gentleman' is one of the weapons of the propertied classes; it precludes dirty tricks against the rich and powerful, but not against the poor and oppressed. This weakness is peculiarly British. We shall achieve nothing until we desire Socialism more than the approval of our enemies, which is only to be won by treachery, conscious or unconscious.
Our British passion for inconsistency and lack of' philosophy is leading the Labour Movement astray. Cromwell had a complete philosophy, however absurd it may seem to us; so had the Benthamites who created the Liberal Party and the whole democratic movement of the nineteenth century. The Russian Communists have achieved what could never have been achieved by men who were content with a hotch-potch of amiable sentiments. it is useless to pretend, for instance, that Socialism is merely Christianity consistently carried out. Christianity is an agricultural religion, Socialism is industrial; it is not so much an affair of sentiment as of economic organization. And we British, like the young man who had great possessions, are prevented from thinking clearly by the vague realization that, if we did, we should have to abandon our imperialism; it is only by a skilful muddle-headedness that the Labour Party can inveigh against imperialists while taking care to retain the Empire and to carry on the tradition of oppression, as the late Government did in practice.
Let us, at least for the sake of argument, admit the whole of Trotsky's indictment of our movement; what, then, shall we say of his programme for Britain? I say it is a programme which could only be advocated by an enemy or a fool; and Trotsky is not a fool. His view is that when we at last have a Labour Government with a clear parliamentary majority, the present leaders, both of the Right and the Left, will be as helpless as Kerensky, and will be swept away by resolute men of action. The police, judiciary, army and militia will be on the side of the disorganizers, saboteurs and fascists. The bureaucratic apparatus must be destroyed, replacing the reactionaries by members of the Labour Party. [But such meagre measures] will extraordinarily sharpen the legal and illegal opposition of the united bourgeois reaction. In other words.. this is also the way of civil war .... In the event of the victory of the proletariat, there will ensue the shattering of the opposition of the exploiters by means of revolutionary dictatorship.
It is odd how Trotsky's realism fails him at this point. Much of his book is taken up in proving how our economic position has deteriorated, and how we have become dependent upon the United States. Yet when he speaks of a Communist revolution, he always argues as though we were economically self-subsistent. It is obvious that French (if not British) aeroplanes and American (if not British) warships would soon put an end to the Communist regime; or, at the lowest, an economic blockade would destroy our export trade and therefore deprive us of our food supply.
There are some bombastic sentences about the sympathy to be expected from Soviet Russia. But until Soviet Russia can place a fleet in the Atlantic stronger than that of America, it is not clear what we should gain by sympathy, however enthusiastic. To secure economic independence without naval supremacy, we should have to reduce our population to about twenty millions. While this was being effected by starvation, no doubt Trotsky's sympathy would be a great comfort; but, on the whole, most of us would rather remain alive without it than die with it.
The fact is that Trotsky hates Britain and British imperialism, not without good reason, and is therefore not to be trusted when he gives advice. We have become, through our dependence upon foreign food, so hopelessly entangled in world politics that it is impossible for us to advance at a pace which America will not tolerate.
Trotsky himself says: 'In the decisive struggle against the proletariat the British bourgeoisie will avail themselves of the most powerful support of the bourgeoisie of the United States, while the working class will base itself mainly on the working class of Europe and the oppressed peoples of the British colonies.' It is scarcely credible that he should suppose our food supply would continue under such circumstances. I am afraid that, like the rest of us, he is a patriot when i t comes to the pinch: a Communist revolution in England would be advantageous to Russia, and therefore he advises it without considering impartially whether it would be advantageous to us. The arguments against it, so far from being sentimental or visionary, are strategical and economic. The Pacifism which he dislikes in the British Labour Movement is forced upon it by the dependence upon America which has resulted from our participation in the Great War. If he really desires the spread of Communism, and not merely the collapse of England, it is time for him to turn his attention to the American Federation of Labour.
From The New Leader, 26th February, 1926
The majority of British critics of my book see its chief failing in that the author is not British and that consequently he is incapable of understanding British psychology, British traditions and so on. It must however be said that the more the British Fabians clutch at this argument the less they appear to be British: in the final analysis they add very little to the arguments which we have heard more than enough of from the Russian Mensheviks and before that, from the populists.
Today, when we are victorious, British and European. socialists in general are inclined to permit us to be left alone in view of the peculiarities of our country and its national culture. They want in this way to erect an essentially ideological barrier along the same frontiers where Lloyd George, Churchill, Clemenceau and others attempted to set up a material barbed wire blockade. 'It may be all right for Russians', so the 'lefts' say to all intents, 'but just let the Russians dare to cross the Russian frontiers with their experience and their conclusions'. The peculiarities of the British character are introduced as a philosophical justification for the theory of Bolshevik 'non-intervention'.
Fabian and other critics do not know that we have been well tempered by all our past against arguments of this brand. But the irony in it is that while the Fabians are agreed nowadays, that is after our victory, to recognize Bolshevism, that is Marxism in action, as corresponding to the national peculiarities of Russia, the old traditional Russian ideology and not just that of the government but that of the opposition, invariably regarded Marxism as a creature of western culture and would proclaim its total incompatibility with the peculiarities of Russian national development.
My generation can still remember how the overwhelming majority of the Russian press declared the Russian Marxists to be ideological aliens who were trying in vain to transplant Britain's historical experience on to Russian soil. On every pretext we were reminded that Marx created his theory of economic development in the British Museum and through observing British capitalism and its contradictions. How could the lessons of British capitalism have any relevance to Russia with its enormous 'peculiarities', its predominantly peasant population, its patriarchal traditions, its village commune and its Orthodox Church? Thus spoke the Russian reactionaries and the Russian populists with appropriate right and left variations. And it was not only before and during the war but even after the February revolution of 1917, when Mr. Henderson came over to Russia to try to persuade the Russian workers to continue the war against Germany, that there was scarcely a single 'Socialist' in the world, right or left, who considered that Bolshevism suited the national peculiarities of Russia. No, at that time we were regarded at best as maniacs. Our own Fabians, the Russian Mensheviks and the so-called Socialist-Revolutionaries brought against us, all the same arguments which today we hear from Lansbury, Brailsford, Russell and their more right-wing colleagues, presented as the conquests of a pure British philosophy. In the final count resorting to the question of national peculiarities forms the last tool of any ideological reaction in shielding itself from the revolutionary demands of the time. By this we do not at all mean that there do not exist national peculiarities or that they are of no substance. The residue of the past represents a great conservative force in institutions and customs. But in the final analysis the living forces of the present decide. The position of the British coal industry on the world market cannot be rectified by any recourse to national traditions. At the same time the role of the coal industry in the fate of Great Britain is immeasurably more important than all the devices and ceremonies of parliamentarism. The House of Commons rests upon coal and not the converse. The conservatism of British forms of property and the means of production comprise just that national 'peculiarity' which is capable only of deepening the social crisis together with all the revolutionary contradictions which flow from it.
Mr. Bertrand Russell, a philosopher of mathematicians, a mathematician of philosophers, an aristocrat of democracy and a dilettante of socialism has considered it his duty also to set his hand, and not for the first time, to the destruction of those pernicious ideas which emanate from Moscow and are inimical to the Anglo-Saxon spirit.
On the question of religion Russell takes a step forward from Brailsford. He admits that in present conditions any organized religion must become a reactionary force (this does not stop Russell from leaving a loop-hole on this point: personal religion, well that's another matter). Russell approves of our arguments concerning the fact that even the most economical king cannot become a component part of a socialist society. Russell refuses to regard the parliamentary road as a guaranteed road to socialism. But all these admissions as well as certain others are made by Russell only in order to reveal more sharply the anti-revolutionary character of his thinking on the question of the future road of the British working class. Russell declares the proletarian revolution in Britain not only to be dangerous but also disastrous. Britain is too dependent upon overseas countries and above all upon the United States of America. If cut off by a blockade from the outside world the British Isles would not be able to feed a population of more than 20 million. 'While [such a reduction of] the population was being effected by starvation,' Russell. taunts us, 'Trotsky's sympathy would be a great comfort. But until Soviet Russia can place a fleet in the Atlantic stronger than that of America it is not clear what we should gain by sympathy, however enthusiastic.' These strategic considerations are most interesting from the lips of a pacifist. We find that in the first place the fate of British pacifism, as far as it attempts to link itself to the working class, depends upon the strength of the American navy. We find in the second place that it would not be at all a bad thing if British pacifism could be protected from its enemies by a Soviet navy of the necessary strength. Our worthy idealist disdainfully tosses aside an ideological sympathy which is not reinforced by sufficient quantities of shells and mines. Here, however, he is clearly going too far.
Russell's own sympathies for the October Revolution (which are however very much like antipathies) have not over the last few years provided us with any 'comfort'. But the sympathies of the British and European workers in general saved us. Of course Churchill caused us as much trouble as he could. Chamberlain is doing everything he can. But we would have been crushed long ago if the ruling classes of Great Britain and Europe had not been afraid to send their armed forces against us. Of course ' this safeguard is not an absolute one. But along with the antagonisms between the capitalist states it proved sufficient to protect us from intervention on a major scale during the most critical first years. And yet both before October and after October our own Russells would assure us that we would be crushed by either the armies of Holienzollern or the armies of the Entente.
They told us that the Russian proletariat, as the most backward and numerically small one, could take power into its hands only in the event of a victory of the world revolution. To make reference to the international revolution as a preliminary condition for the overthrow of the bourgeois state in one's own country represents a masked denial of revolution. For what is the international revolution? It is a chain -- and not an even one either -- of national revolutions within which each one feeds the others with its successes and, in turn, loses from the failures of the others. In 1923 when the revolutionary situation reached its sharpest point in Germany the left social-democrats in their struggle against the communists argued the danger of military intervention by France and Poland. The German left Mensheviks were totally prepared, at least in words, to seize power in Germany under the condition of a preliminary victory of the proletariat in France. This Menshevik agitation was one of the factors which paralysed the revolutionary initiative of the German working class. In the event of a decisive sharpening of the political situation in France - and this is the way things are going - the French socialists will doubtless intimidate the French workers with the danger of a German revanche on the one hand and with that of a British blockade on the other. But who would have the slightest doubt that Leon Blum,  Jean Longuet and other heroes would agree to the conquest of power under the condition of a preliminary and what is more a complete victory of the working class of Great Britain and Germany? And the socialists of small states consider it to be doubly impossible to start a revolution at home as long as the bourgeoisie maintains power in the large states. The Mensheviks of the different countries toss the right to revolutionary initiative back and forth with about as much skill as performing seals at the circus toss burning torches from one to another.
Russell the pacifist considers it impossible to. embark upon a revolution in Britain as long as the United States retains its powerful navy. It would of course be pretty good if the American proletariat seized power in its hands in the near future and with it the navy. But then wouldn't the American Russells tell us that proletarian power in the United States would inevitably be threatened by the combined navies of Great Britain and Japan? True, this argument could be ignored if the proletarian revolution really was on the immediate agenda in the United States. Unfortunately it is not yet. Great Britain from every point of view is immeasurably closer to revolution than North America. Consequently we have to reckon with the fact that the struggle of the proletariat for power in Britain will take place in the face of the still unshaken rule of the American bourgeoisie. So what can we do? Russell indicates, more in irony it is true. a solution to the problem: he proposes to the Soviet Union that it creates a navy capable of guaranteeing free access to proletarian Britain. Unfortunately the poverty and technological backwardness of our country do not permit us at the moment to fulfil such a programme. Of course it would be more advantageous, economical and simpler, if the proletarian revolution commenced in the United States and extended through Britain and from the West eastwards across Europe and Asia. But the actual course of development is not like this: the chain of capitalist rule like any other chain breaks at its weakest link. After Tsarist Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy came closest of all to the proletarian revolution. For France and Britain the day of reckoning for the war is merely still to come. Europe as a whole is immeasurably closer to the revolutionary overthrow than the United States. And this has to be taken into account.
Of course the situation of a blockaded Britain would. in view of its vital dependence upon imports and exports, be graver than the situation of any other European country. However the resources of a revolutionary Britain in its struggle against hardships would also be extremely great.
While referring to the American navy Russell for some reason forgets about the British navy. In whose hands would it be? If it remained in the hands of the bourgeoisie then the closer and more acute danger to threaten the proletarian revolution would be not from the American navy but from the British navy. But if the latter ended up in the hands of the proletariat then the position would at once become immeasurably more favourable than Russell depicts it. From our critic there is not a word on this question of no little importance. But we must dwell on it in somewhat more detail.
The major peculiarities of British development have been determined by its island position. The role of the British navy in the fate of the country has formed the sharpest expression of these peculiarities. At the same time the British socialists who reproach us for ignorance or incomprehension of the hidden and imponderable peculiarities of the British spirit forget without exception when discussing the question of the proletarian revolution such an extremely ponderable quantity as the British navy. Russell while ironically appealing for assistance from the Soviet navy says nothing about the navy which continued to be reinforced with light cruisers when the party of MacDonald, Brailsford and Lansbury was in power..
Here we have a question of conquering power in a country where the proletariat constitutes the preponderant majority of the population. The political prerequisite for success must only be the aspiration of the proletariat itself to master power at any cost, that is at the price of any, sacrifice. Only a revolutionary party is capable of uniting the working masses in this aspiration. The second prerequisite of success is a clear understanding of the paths and methods of struggle. Only a workers' party freed from pacifist cataracts in its eyes can see itself and explain to the proletariat that the real transfer of power from the hands of one class into the hands of another depends in immeasurably greater degree upon the British army and the British navy than upon parliament. The struggle of the proletariat for power must therefore be its struggle for the navy. Sailors, not of course the admirals but the stokers, electricians and ratings must be schooled to understand the tasks and aims of the working class. A road to them must be found across all obstacles. Only systematic, stubborn and insistent preparatory work can create a situation where the bourgeoisie cannot depend upon the navy in the struggle against the proletariat. And without this condition it is senseless to talk about victory.
It is of course impossible to conceive the question as through in the first period of the revolution the navy will en bloc and in full combat order go over to the side of the proletariat. Matters will not proceed without deep internal unrest inside the navy itself. The history of all revolutions bears witness to this. Upheavals in the navy connected with an overall change in the command structure inevitably signifies a general weakening of a navy for a fairly long period. Once again one cannot close one's eyes to this. But a period of crisis and an internal weakening of the navy will proceed more rapidly the more decisive is the leading party of the proletariat, the more contacts it has in the navy during the preparatory period, the bolder it is during the period of the struggle and the more clearly it shows to all oppressed people that it is capable of seizing power and retaining it. Pacifism only to a very insignificant extent affects the military machine of the ruling class. The best evidence of this is provided by Russell's own courageous but generally futile experience during the war. It resulted merely in a few thousand young people being put in prison on account of their 6conscience'. In the old Tsarist army members of sects and especially followers of Tolstoy frequently suffered persecution for this kind of passive anti-militarism. But they did not solve the problem of the overthrow of Tsarism. And in Britain they did not and could not prevent the war being carried on until the end. Pacifism turns its face not so much towards the military organization of the bourgeois state as towards the working masses. Here its influence is absolutely pernicious. It paralyses the will of those who to start with suffer no shortage of it. It preaches the harmfulness of armaments to those who are, as it is, disarmed and represent the victims of class violence. Under the present conditions of British life when the problem is posed point-blank, Russell's pacifism is thoroughly reactionary.
Not so long ago Lansbury, according to the newspapers, entreated British soldiers not to fire on strikers. Thousands of those present at the meeting of working men and women raised their hands to show their solidarity with this appeal which, it is true, hardly reconciles itself with MacDonald's policy and yet represents a certain step forward on the road to revolution. One must be very naive to think that Lansbury's appeal opens up the possibility of a peaceful, bloodless, pacifist solution to the problem of power. On the contrary this appeal inasmuch as it, makes any headway in practice will inevitably bring on the sharpest military conflicts. It cannot be imagined that all soldiers and all sailors will simultaneously refuse to fire on workers. In actual fact the revolution will drive a wedge into the army and navy; a rift will pass through every company and-through the crew of every warship. One soldier will have firmly made his mind up not to fire even though it may cost him his life. A second will waver. A third will be prepared to fire on the one who refuses to fire. And in the early stage most numerous are those who waver. How was it with us in 1905 and 1917? The soldier or sailor who showed in practice his solidarity with the workers fell under the fire of an officer. In the next stage an officer would fall under the fire of soldiers inspired by the heroic example of their more advanced comrades. Such conflicts spread. A regiment in which revolutionary elements hold control stands against a regiment where the command of the old officer corps is maintained. At the same time the workers, finding support in the revolutionary regiments, arm themselves. In the navy it was no different. We would very much advise Russell and his sympathizers to see the Soviet film The Battleship Potemkin which shows quite graphically the mechanism of the revolution inside an armed mass of people. Even more important it would be to show this film to British workers and sailors. Let us hope that the Labour Party will do so when it comes to power.
The congenital bourgeois bigots and the civilized cannibals will of course speak with the greatest vexation of how we are striving to set brother against brother, soldier against officer and so forth. The pacifists will echo them. They will once again not fail to remind us that we see everything in a bloody light because we do not know the peculiarities of Great Britain and because we underestimate the beneficial influence of Christian morality upon the naval officers, the policemen and Joynson-Hicks. But this cannot stop us. A revolutionary policy requires above all that we look facts openly in the face so as to foretell the course of their subsequent development. A revolutionary policy appears fantastic to philistines only because it is able to predict the day after next, while they do not dare to give a thought to the next day.
In conditions where the national organism as a whole can be saved not by conservative therapy but only by surgical intervention and amputating the malignant organ - that is, the class which has outlived itself - pacifist sermons flow in essence from an attitude of complacent indifference. The highest degree of `mercy' in such conditions demands the greatest firmness so as to reduce the time-span and minimize the pain. The more decisively the British proletariat sets its hand upon all means and implements of the British bourgeoisie the less temptation the American bourgeoisie will have to intervene in the struggle. The more speedily and fully the proletarian power dominates the British navy the less opportunity the American navy will have to destroy that power in Britain. We do not mean by this that military intervention by the transatlantic republic is excluded. On the contrary it is very probable and within certain limits entirely inevitable. But the results of such an intervention will depend in enormous measure upon our own policy before and during the revolution.
To impose a total blockade of the British Isles and above all their isolation from the European continent the behaviour of the French navy will be of no little significance. Will the French bourgeoisie send its warships against the proletarian revolution in Britain? On this score we have had certain experiences. In 1918 Millerand sent French warships to the Black Sea against Soviet ports. The result is well known. The cruiser Waldeck Rousseau raised the banner of mutiny. Neither did everything go well with the British in the Russian North. Revolution is highly infectious. And sailors are, more than anyone else, susceptible to revolutionary infection. At the time when the French sailors Marty and Badin mounted the uprising because they did not wish to go into action against the proletarian revolution in Russia, France seemed to be at the summit of her power. But today the period of reckoning for the war has begun for her too, no less than for Britain. To think that even in the event where in Britain the monarchy, landlords, bankers and industrialists have been thrown overboard the French bourgeoisie will retain the possibility of playing the part of the gendarme in the Atlantic Ocean or even just in the English Channel is to display a monstrous optimism in favour of the bourgeoisie and a shameful pessimism as regards the proletariat. Britain, that is her bourgeoisie, was not for nothing the ruler of the waves. The British revolution will set ripples in motion throughout the oceans. Its first result will be to upset the discipline of all navies. Who knows whether in these conditions the American naval commanders will have to abandon the idea of a tight naval blockade and to withdraw their vessels away from the European infection?
But in the end even in America itself the navy is not the final decisive factor. The capitalist regime is more powerful in America than anywhere else. We know as well as Russell does the counterrevolutionary character of the American Federation of Labor of which he reminds us. just as the bourgeoisie of the United States has raised the power of capital to an unprecedented height so the American Federation of Labor has brought the methods of conciliation to the lowest limit. But this does not at all mean that the American bourgeoisie is all-powerful. It is immeasurably more powerful against the European bourgeoisie than against the European proletariat. Under the lid of the American labour aristocracy, the most privileged of all the world's labour aristocracies, there slumber and ferment the revolutionary instincts and moods of the multi-racial working masses of North America. A revolution in the Anglo-Saxon country on the other side of the Atlantic will affect the proletariat of the United States more strongly than any other revolution previously. This still does not mean that the rule of the American bourgeoisie will be toppled the day after the conquest of power by the British proletariat. A series of serious economic, military and political crises will be required before the kingdom of the dollar is toppled. The American bourgeoisie is itself today preparing these crises by investing its capital throughout the world and thereby tying its rule to the European chaos and to the powder magazines of the East. But the revolution in Britain will inevitably evoke a powerful reaction on the other side of the 'great water' both on the New York Stock Exchange and in the workers' ghettoes of Chicago. A change will immediately take place in the self-awareness of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat of the United States., the bourgeoisie will feel weaker and the working class stronger. And the self-awareness of classes is a major component element of the so-called balance of forces. Again this does not mean that the American bankers and tycoons will be unable to make attempts with their navy to choke the revolution of the British proletariat economically. But such an attempt will in itself mean a further crisis in the internal regime of the United States. In the final count, in the very heart of every American warship, in the engine room, not only the revolutionary events in Great Britain but also the new moods produced by them in the proletariat of the United States will take their effect. Taken together all this does not signify that the proletarian revolution in Britain is not fraught with hardships and dangers. On the contrary both the former and the latter are colossal. But they exist on both sides. And this is in fact what the essence of revolution consists of. The greater the place occupied by a given nation in the world the more sweeping will be the forces of action and counteraction that the revolution awakens and releases. In these conditions, our 'sympathies' can prove to be of some use. Revolutions are not made in the order of the most advantageous sequence. Revolutions are not generally made at will. If one could rationally map out a revolutionary itinerary then it would probably avoid revolution altogether. But this is just the point, for revolution forms the expression of the impossibility of reconstructing class society by rational methods. Logical arguments even if elevated by Russell to the status of mathematical formulae are impotent against material interests. The ruling classes will sooner condemn all civilization, including mathematics, to ruin rather than renounce their privileges. In the struggle between the miners and the coal owners of Great Britain the coming revolution already wholly exists in embryo just as in the grain of corn the future stalk and car exists in embryo. The irrational factors of human history operate most brutally of all through class contradictions. Over these irrational factors one cannot leap. just as mathematics by working with irrational quantities arrives at completely realistic conclusions so in politics one can rationalize, that is bring a social system into a reasonable order, only by clearly taking into account the irrational contradictions of society so as to overcome them finally - not by avoiding revolution but through its agency.
We could essentially finish at this point. Russell's objections have given us an opportunity to examine additionally those sides of the question which our pamphlet left in the shade. But perhaps it would not be superfluous to touch upon the last and most powerful argument of the pacifist critic. Russell declares that our attitude towards the British revolution is dictated by. . . our Russian patriotism. He says:
1 am afraid that like the rest of us Trotsky is a patriot when it comes to the pinch: a communist revolution in England would be advantageous to Russia, and therefore he advises it without considering impartially whether it would be advantageous to us....
This argument has everything in its favour except novelty. Chamberlain's and Joynson-Hicks' press - the Morning Post takes this up with the greatest fervour - long ago proved that the international communist movement serves the aims of Soviet imperialism which in turn continues the traditions of Tsarist policy. This sort of accusation started at the time when the bourgeoisie had become convinced that our party had taken power in earnest and was not about to give up. In the period preceding the seizure of power and directly following it the accusations had, as is well known, a directly converse nature. The Bolsheviks were accused of being alien to national feelings and patriotic considerations and of carrying out Hohenzollern policy in relation to Russia. And this was not at all so long ago. Arthur Henderson, Emil Vandervelde, Albert Thomas and others made visits to Russia to convince the Russian workers that the Bolsheviks were prepared to betray the basic interests of Russia in favour of their international chimera (or according to another version for the German Kaiser's gold). Again it was the Morning Post which developed this theme with the most sharpness and vigour. In exactly the same way as Russell now accuses us of being ready to reduce the population of Great Britain to 20 million for the benefit of Soviet imperialism, nine years ago we were accused of a heartless readiness to reduce the population of Russia two and three-fold in the name of our international aims. Our party, as is well known, took the point of view that the defeat of Tsarist Russia in the war would be advantageous as much for the Russian as for the international working class. The socialist lackeys of the Entente could not shift us from this position. In the period of the Brest-Litovsk peace, accusations of an anti-national policy (in the other version - of collaboration with Hohenzollern) reached fever pitch. Nevertheless our party did not allow itself to be drawn into the war in the interests of American capital. The Hohenzollern regime fell and in its downfall the October revolution played no less a role than did the arms of the Entente. The antagonism between the Soviet Republic and the governments of the victorious Entente moved into the foreground. The most reactionary world role is played by the ruling class of Great Britain: in Europe, in Egypt, in Turkey, in Persia, in India and in China. Any changes in the world situation, either economically or politically are directed against the ruling class of Great Britain. Hence the obsolete British bourgeoisie in its struggle for its dwindling power furiously fights against changes. The American bourgeoisie is more powerful. Its struggle against the revolution will be on a larger scale. But America stands for the moment in the second line. The most active and vicious enemy of the revolutionary movement in Europe, in Asia and in Africa is the ruling class of Great Britain. It would appear that for a socialist this fact is more than sufficient to explain the antagonism between the Soviet Union and the British Empire. Are we 'patriots'? To the same degree as we were 'anti-patriots' during the imperialist war. By the methods of state power we are defending the same interests for which we fought by the methods of insurrection: the interests of the world proletariat.
When Russell says that we are prepared in the interests of the Soviet state to make a sacrifice of the interests of the British working class then this is not only false but absurd. Any weakening of the British proletariat and even more so its defeat in open struggle must inevitably inflict a heavy blow both to the international and to the internal position of the Soviet Union. When in March 1921 the German communists made an attempt to force the proletarian revolution artificially they were subjected to sharp criticism at the Third World Congress of the Communist International. They justified themselves by referring to the difficult position of the Soviet Republic and to the necessity of assisting it. Lenin and ourselves said to them: neither heroic outbursts nor even less revolutionary adventures can help the Soviet Republic; we need the same thing that the German proletariat needs: that is a victorious revolution; it would be fundamentally wrong to think that the proletariat of any country must in the interests of the Soviet state undertake any steps which do not flow from its own interests as a class fighting for its complete liberation. This standpoint, which has entered our flesh and blood, is alien to socialists who, if not always, then at least at the decisive moment, invariably end up on the side of their own bourgeoisie. And Russell does not form an exception. To be sure during the war he displayed brave, though politically quite hopeless, resistance to his government: this was an individual demonstration, the tribute of conscience - the fate of the regime was not in slightest degree placed in jeopardy. But when it comes to the revolution of the proletariat Russell cannot find in his intellectual arsenal any other arguments beyond those which make him kindred to the Morning Post and all the Churchills of his country.
The principal peculiarity of British politics, and its past history is summed up in the blatant disparity between the revolutionary maturity of the objective economic factors and the extreme backwardness of ideological forms particularly in the ranks of the working class. Least of all is this basic peculiarity understood by the very people who most sharply demonstrate it: the bourgeois humanists and the latter-day enlighteners and pacifists. Along with the reactionary petty-bourgeois reformists they consider themselves to be the anointed leaders of the proletariat. Bertrand Russell is not the worst among them. But his writings on social and political topics, his outcry against war, his polemic with Scott Nearing over the Soviet regime characterize his unmistakable superficial dilettantism, his political blindness and his complete lack of comprehension of the basic mechanism of historical development; that is the struggle of living classes which grow out of the basis of production. To history he counterposes the propaganda of a few pacifist slogans which he formulates quite wretchedly. And in the process he forgets to explain to us why pacifist enlightenment has not saved us from wars and revolutions despite the fact that such eminent people as Robert Owen in the first half of the 19th century, the French enlighteners of the 18th century, the Quakers beginning in the 17th century and many, many others concerned themselves with this question. Russell is a latter-day enlightener who has inherited from the old enlightenment not so much its enthusiasm as its idealistic prejudices. Russell is a sceptic through and through. He counterposes the peaceful and gradual. methods of science and technology to the violent methods of revolution. But he believes just as little in the salutary force of scientific thought as he does in the force of revolutionary action. In his polemic with Nearing he attempts under the cover of pseudo-socialist phrases to belittle, discredit and compromise the revolutionary initiative of the Russian proletariat. In his polemic against the biologist Haldane he makes a mockery of scientific-technical optimism. In his pamphlet Icarus he openly expresses his conviction that the best outcome would be the destruction of all our civilization. And this man, worm-eaten through and through with scepticism, egoistic, reclusive and aristocratic, considers himself called upon to give advice to the British proletariat and to warn it against our communist intrigues! The British working class is entering a period when it requires the greatest belief in its mission and its strength. To gain this there is no need for any stimulants like religion or idealist morality. It is necessary and sufficient that the British proletariat understands the position of its country in relation to the position of the whole world, that it has become clear about the rottenness of the ruling classes and that it has thrown out of its way the careerists, quacks and those bourgeois sceptics who imagine themselves to be socialists only because they from time to time vomit in the atmosphere of rotting bourgeois society.
Crimea, en route. 3rd May, 1926.
P.S. These lines were being written during the days when the question of the miners' strike and the General Strike hung on a thin thread. Today a final solution has still not come about or at least news of it has not reached us. But whatever direction events in Britain take in the coming days and weeks the questions to which the present article in particular is devoted can no longer be taken off the agenda of British political life.
From Derites Kak Cherti, May 1926.
1 Henry Noel Brailsford (1873-1958) A socialist writer who came to prominence as a journalist in the Daily News over the issue of women's suffrage. He joined the ILP in 1907 and took a pacifist position in the First World War. He was editor of the ILP paper New Leader, from 1922-26 and as such was an opponent of MacDonald within the ILP. He was active in efforts to reunite the Second and Third Internationals and in the ILP campaign of 1926 entitled "Socialism in Our Time".
2 He evidently misunderstands our electoral system. Again the life of the Independent Labour Party has been much longer than he supposes, and its membership is twice what he attributes to it. He seems at times to identify it with the Fabian Society. But such slips are of no importance. H. N. B.
3 Puritan sect at the time of the English Revolution, which opposed infant baptism and emphasised congregational organization in opposition to government by the church hierarchy. The name came to be applied generally to the extreme left wing in religion and politics during the Civil War period.
4 A group of Puritans during the English Revolution who believed that the return of Christ and the establishment of the millenium. was imminent. They engaged in risings in 1657 and 1661 against the respective governments existing at these dates.
5 Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). Great British philosopher, a long-time pacifist and radical who, very late in life, took a left position on the Vietnam War.
6 Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), leading French bourgeois politician. He emerged as a radical during the period of the Paris Commune (1871). In the 1890s he became popular through his part in the Dreyfus case whom he defended along with Zola and Jaurés. As a prominent deputy in parliament Clemenceau more than once caused the fall of a government by his energetic speeches, and thus received the nickname of 'the breaker of ministries'. From 1902 he was either Prime Minister or another government member. As Prime Minister from 1917-1920 Clemenceau was hailed as the 'architect of victory' and was the leading figure of the Versailles peace conference in 1919. At the same period, he was the inspirer of intervention against Soviet Russia.
7 Leon Blum (1872-1950), leader of the French Socialist Party from 1924. As an extreme right-winger he formed a coalition that year with the Radicals (Liberals) under Herriot. He became Prime Minister of a similar coalition in 1936 on the wave of major labour struggles but pursued a treacherous policy of preserving capitalism and won the support of the Stalinists by his demagogic appeal to defend democracy against fascism. He pursued Laval's policy of non-intervention in Spain jointly with Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain in Britain. Replaced as Prime Minister by Daladier in 1938, he remained leader of the socialists until his death.
8. Jean Longuet (1876-1938), French Lawyer and Socialist who in the First World War held a pacifist position but invariably voted for war credits. Founder and editor of the newspaper Le Populaire. At the Strasbourg Congress in 1918 the majority of the French Socialist Party adopted Longuet's policy. After the Tours Congress in 1920 where the communists gained the majority he supported the minority and joined the centrist two-and-a-half International which returned later to the Second International. [He was also the grandson of Karl Marx, ERC]
9. Alexandre Millerand. (1859-943), originally a French socialist, and achieved notoriety as the first socialist ever to enter a bourgeois government which he did in 1899. This gave rise to the condemnation of parliamentarism at the Amsterdam Congress of' the Second International in 1904 and the unification of the French Socialist Party on a basis of opposition to participation in bourgeois governments. He proceeded to become a leading bourgeois politician and as Prime Minister in 1920 formed a coalition (the 'Bloc Nationale') and gave support to the Polish Whites against Soviet Russia in that year. He was President from 1920 to 1924 when he resigned through the opposition of the Left Bloc which had come to power.
10. André Marty (1886-1956), French sailor who led the mutiny in the Black Sea fleet on 16th April 1919 when French units were operating in support of the Whites in Russia. The fleet had to be withdrawn. Marry became a leading member of the French Communist Party but was expelled in 1952.
11. A lesser-known associate of Marty in the leadership of the French sailors' uprising.
12. Founded in 1881 as the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, in 1886 it became the American Federation of Labor. Led by Sarnuel Gompers, the federation linked craft unions which preserved a wide degree of independence. The leaders were extremely patriotic and anti -revolutionary, basing themselves on the most skilled and conservative sections of American workers.
13. Scott Nearing (1883-?) Sociologist in the US who lost a university post there for opposing the First World War. Worked as a journalist in Britain for a time during the 1920s.
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