Clara Zetkin, The Communist, November 1920
Source: The Communist, 4 November 1920, p.4;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Comrade Clara Zetkin, the leader of the German workers, made an impressive speech at the joint sitting of the Moscow Soviet and other Labour organisations. Comrade Trotsky translated her speech into Russian.
Comrade Zetkin began her speech with a declaration that she came to Russia to bring the workers’ fraternal greetings not only from the German Communists but also from the millions of German workers who do not belong to this Party, but whose hearts beat in unison with those of the Communists.
“I am able to state here” said Comrade Zetkin, “that the German working class is carrying on the same struggle which has brought you to victory. Our struggle in Germany is far more difficult than yours, for the reason that our bourgeoisie is stronger and better united and has a better organisation and a more developed class instinct than was the case with the Russian bourgeoisie. We are firmly convinced of our final victory for the reason that this victory is an indispensable necessity in the development of German society. German capitalism is in a state of disintegration. Its revival is no longer possible. German capital will no longer be able to bind the German proletariat to its chariot. At the present time already the German bourgeois state is compelled to enlist the activity of machine-guns in order to drive the working people to the factories and works; it has become impossible for the capitalist form of production to continue its development owing to the ever-increasing intensification of the civil war. It was not so very long ago when the Stuttgart workers, refusing to have their taxes paid out of wages, arrived at their factory gates to find the latter locked and surrounded with barbed wire and machine-guns stationed on the roofs. It may be possible to keep the workers before the factory gates by setting up a barbed-wire barrier, but it is not possible to stem in this way the decay of capitalist system of production.
“Almost everything is to be obtained in Germany, but it is accessible only to the limited few. The prices have soared up far in excess of the rate of pay, and therefore the poverty of the working class is steadily increasing. At no time were these two poles of rich and poor so far apart, never was the chasm between poverty and riches so deep as is the case in the present non-Hohenzollern but Ebert Germany.
“We are well aware of the fact that you here suffer great need. You are short of everything. But at the same time, when I compare the destitution of the German proletariat to yours, I perceive the deep significance of your sacrifices, for you suffer for the sake of establishing a new system of equality and justice while the German proletariat continues to suffer poverty and need in order to feel the burden of capitalism upon its back.
“I repeat that the German proletariat is going upon a straight road towards insurrection, towards revolution. It might have seemed to you at times that the progress is rather slow. That is true. The old treacherous social betrayers have corrupted the upper strata of the working class, have sown doubt and vacillation in their ranks and inspired them with distrust and lack of confidence in themselves, and thus impeded their revolutionary striving for victory. Yet, in spite of this, the development of the German working class towards revolution grows daily.
“Are you aware of the immeasurable sacrifices which are borne by the German working class? During 1918, in Berlin, Leipzig and in the Rhine province, not less than fifteen thousand working men and women have perished. And what a huge number of them fill the prisons of Germany. The best of our comrades have fallen; we miss Karl Leibknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and Jogiches. However, the revolutionary agitation goes on uninterruptedly. The German working class is approaching a new chapter of its revolutionary struggle. This revolutionary struggle is going on under the banner of actual creative solidarity with Soviet Russia.
“It is the time to make this conclusion, because, led by the traitorous social betrayers, the German proletariat has twice betrayed the cause of the revolution of the Russian working class; the first occasion was the moment of the Brest negotiations when the Soviet Republic was being stifled by German Imperialism and the German working class had failed to rise in its defence. The second occasion was when, in November of 1918, the German working class permitted its government to get on its knees before the Entente countries instead of stretching forth a fraternal hand to the Soviet Republic, instead of uniting the fate of revolutionary Germany to the fate of revolutionary Russia for a common struggle against the common enemy. At the present time the German proletariat will not permit the repetition of such shameful treason. At the present time the solidarity of the German proletariat with revolutionary Russia is not one of words and solemn declarations but is a solidarity of growing revolutionary activity. And we, the German Communist Party, repeat to the German working class : Do you wish to support Soviet Russia? There is only one way of doing it. Seize the government power of Germany and this will put you on a level with Soviet Russia.
“Comrades, our struggle will be difficult. In the struggle against the proletariat our bourgeoisie has the support of World Imperialism. But this is the very reason why we understand that the German revolution is directed against world capitalism and bears not only a German but a world character. Retreat is impossible for us. We cannot accept the slogan – back, back to the capitalist trough. Only forward to victory, forward to Communism, to revolution in Germany.
“Allow me to conclude by thanking you personally for your warm reception. Unfortunately I do not know Russian and have therefore missed all those flattering words of praise which have been said concerning myself. But I beg you to believe that my personal services are small here. I am an old woman. I fought all my life, but I did so because I could act in no other way. I came here to you to see the country where the working class has overthrown the dominating aggressive exploiters. I could here repeat the words of the believing Christian who is ready to die as he has seen the face of his Saviour. I say this because I have seen the country in which the working class has shown an example to the workers of the entire world.
“But I do not wish these words to be understood in a sense that I think the mission of my life fulfilled. I wish my death to take place under no other circumstances except in the revolutionary struggle.”