Clara Zetkin

Five Years of Russian Revolution and
the Prospects of the World Revolution

(13/14 November 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 105, 1 December 1922, pp. 843–851.
Transcription & HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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Eighth Session

Plenary Session of November 13th

Comrades: As five years ago, so today the Russian Revolution stands before us as the most formidable historic event of the present period. Scarcely had this giant stretched his mighty limbs and had plunged into the stubborn and passionate struggle for his existence and further development, than cleavages occurred within the working class of all countries, which were more acute than they had ever been before. “Long live Reform”, “Long live the Revolution!” Such was from all sides the reply to the call of the Russian Revolution. This situation gives to the Russian Revolution a quite definite and far reaching significance. About the middle of the nineties of the last century a definite political orientation had arisen within the working class which was, so to speak, the ideological sediment of the imperialist capitalism and of its repercussion on the conditions of the working lass. Theoretically, we called this orientation – Revisionism, and in practice it was Opportunism. What was its nature? Its opinion was that the revolution had become superfluous and avoidable. The revisionists, the reformists of today, asserted that capitalism produces within itself the organizational forms which overcome or at least palliate the imminent economic and social conflicts, thus neutralizing the theories of impoverishment, crises, and catastrophes. According to their conception, capitalism itself no longer created the objective factors of an indispensable and inevitable revolution. Owing to the same conception, another social actor of the revolution – the workers’ will for revolution – was eliminated. It was asserted that democracy and social reform gradually undermine capitalism, that society would emerge from Capitalism into Socialism. This conception was repudiated in theory at the party conferences of the Social Democrats, the leading party of the II. International. It was rejected in 1903 and 1906 at the International Congresses in Paris and Amsterdam. Nevertheless, it became more and more the practice within the Parties of the II. International. This was already apparent in the attitude of the Stuttgart, Copenhagen, and Basle Congresses on he questions of imperialism, militarism and the impending world war.

The world war broke out. The bourgeoisie of the belligerent countries philosophized with machine-guns, tanks, submarines and with aircraft from which death and destruction was spread broadcast. During the course of the war it became quite evident that it was nothing less than a supreme crisis, that it would end in a terrible catastrophe of world capitalism. It is the bitter irony of history that during the process of the development of affairs, the majority of the organized working class of the highly developed capitalist countries clung to the anti-revolutionary theory, the theory of Reformism. This, on the outbreak of war, led to the ignominious failure of the II. International. The proletariat did not respond to the lesson of the world war by an International alliance for world revolution and for a general settlement of accounts with capitalism. On the contrary, it responded by the alliance of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie of their respective so-called fatherlands. When at the conclusion of the world war, capitalism proved itself incapable of overcoming the catastrophe, when the bourgeoisie showed that it was incapable and unwilling to reconstruct the world out of the chaos which had been created, the opportunist leaders of the working class clung all the more tenaciously to their theory of reformism. They said that Socialism and Communism will arise not out of the collapse of capitalism, but out of its reconstruction and its revival. They said that the evils and the sufferings of the war would be overcome and society restored, not through revolutionary class struggle, but only through co-operation, through harmonious collaboration of the classes, in fact through the bourgeois and proletarian coalition. Their slogan is not revolution for the establishment of society on a Communist basis, but an alliance with the bourgeoisie for the reconstruction of Capitalism.

Comrades! in this stifling atmosphere the Russian Revolution acted like a thunderstorm. The Russian proletariat was the first, and unfortunately is still the only one (apart from that in the small Soviet Republics which sprang up within the former Russian Empire) which drew logical and practical conclusions from the imperialist war and from the collapse of capitalism. The Russian Revolution commenced the actual liquidation of Revisionism, of Reformism, the liquidation which will be finally accomplished by the World Revolution. The Russian Revolution has expressed quite clearly the will and determination of the proletarian masses to put an end to capitalism once and for all. It is the first mighty action of the world revolution which is the supreme judgment over capitalism.

Comrades! the Mensheviki, the Social-Revolutionaries and their brothers outside of Russia have certainly assured the world that they represent the theory that the Russian Revolution is nothing but a small national affair, and must be kept within the limits of a purely bourgeois revolution. The aim must be reversion to the February (March) Revolution. There is no doubt whatever that the Russian Revolution gave expression to the historic conditions which, on Russian territory, made for the destruction of Tsarism and for the establishment of new political forms of government. At the same time, from the first day of its existence, the Russian Revolution proved itself to be not a small national affair, but rather the big affair of the world proletariat. It has shown that it cannot be forced into the narrow limits of a mere political bourgeois revolution, because it is the party of the powerful proletarian world revolution. The Russian Revolution has not only given expression to revolutionary social factors, the objective and subjective tendencies of which sprang up on Russian territory. It also gives expression to the social and revolutionary tendencies and forces of international capitalism and of the world bourgeois society. This is evident from the fact that the Russian revolution was an outcome of the world war which was not a casual event, but the inevitable consequence of the economic and political world conditions under the domination of finance capital and of imperialist capitalism. The Russian Revolution gives expression to all the economic, political and social conditions which were created by the imperialist world capitalism in Russia itself, as well as in other countries. Moreover, the Russian Revolution is the embodiment and the crystallization of the proletariat of all countries. International revolutionary socialism, the spiritual and moral forces, were aroused by and are active in the Russian Revolution.

Thus the Russian Revolution is to the world proletarian masses the supreme expression of the life, the strength and the firmness of the social factors of historic development, of the conscience, the will, the action and the struggle of the proletarian masses for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Communism. It has been asserted that the fact of the Proletarian Revolution having begun is due to the weakness of the Russian bourgeoisie. It is said that it is only owing to the weakness of the bourgeoisie in Russia that the revolution has taken the formidable and menacing form it has. This is true, comrades, but only to a certain extent. I venture to say that the Strength of the revolutionary will and of the revolutionary actions of the Russian proletariat, which, imbued with the revolutionary spirit, and having received its ideological training from the Bolshevik Party, became the arbiters of the world’s destiny, were more important factors in making Russia the birthplace of the Revolution than the weakness of the bourgeoisie. My conception is borne out by the fact that the Russian proletariat was certainly able, at the outbreak of the revolution, to overpower and overthrow the comparatively weak Russian bourgeoisie. The further triumph of the revolution, its continuance during five years, every day of which was a day of struggle against the powerful world bourgeoisie, is a proof that there was something stronger and more decisive operating in the Russian Revolution than the weakness of the Russian bourgeoisie; it was the strength, the passionate determination the perseverance, in fact the determined will for revolution which inspired the proletarian masses under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party.

Comrades, it was clear from the beginning that the Revolution in Russia could not be a bourgeois revolution in view of the character of its most important social factor, the proletariat, and of the nature of the revolution itself. Louder and louder was the demand: peace through revolution! the land for the peasants! workers’ control of production, and above all, the slogan: all power to the Soviets! Such demands are incompatible with a bourgeois revolution. It is true that these demands were kept in the background at first and did not attain their full significance during the February (March) Revolution. But they gained ground, became more influential, and from mere propagandist watchwords they evolved into objects for struggle.

The bourgeoisie was prepared for this Revolution. It was strongly organized in the Zemstvos, the Dumas of the large towns, and in many industrial unions and leagues which sprang up during the world war. The Russian proletariat, on the other hand, had no revolutionary fighting organization, it created them in the course of the Revolution in the shape of Soviets. It is significant that the Soviet did not at first initiate the struggle on a revolutionary basis, for revolutionary aims and with revolutionary determination. In the beginning the Mensheviki and the Social-Revolutionaries played the most important role in them. They fostered within the Russian proletariat the spirit which makes for reformism and for the voluntary relinquishing of power to the bourgeoisie, viz., the fear of responsibility and lack of confidence in its own strength. It is significant that the conference of 82 delegates of workers’ and soldiers’ soviets, which met in Petrograd in 1917, brought forward a resolution which said that the struggle between capital and labor must take account of the conditions created by the war situation and by the still incomplete Revolution. The form of the struggle must be determined by these conditions. The faint-heartedness of the Russian proletariat, even of its best elements, those who are organized in the trade unions, was expressed in the Third Conference of the All-Russian Trade Unions which took place on the 20th of June of that year. This conference revealed the growing influence of the Bolshevik Party, as the revolutionary party of the proletariat. Among other radical demands was that for working class control of production. But, they added the proletariat cannot alone accept the responsibility for the control of national economy. This task is so difficult, so complicated, that all productive elements, all sections of the population must be drawn into its workings. This position of the organized workers is a sign of the coalition policy between the proletariat and bourgeoisie, which has been carried on by the petty bourgeois, reformist, Socialist and Social Revolutionary parties since the March Revolution.

This was in truth and in deed bourgeois politics. The democratic expression of capitalist class rule. Instead of peace they had the June offensive, instead of satisfying the land hunger of the peasants they were shooting down the rioting mujiks, instead of control or production for the restoration of national economy, they had the renunciation of all social reforms and the exploitation and sabotage of industry through the capitalists and their opposition to the demand for All Power to the Soviets. The democracy in its struggle against the revolutionary working class soon revealed what value it placed upon its principles. It revealed itself more and more as the undisguised class rule of the bourgeoisie, merging into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The coalitionist, socialistic, petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals allied with the bourgeoisie, did not wish to go beyond the limits of a bourgeois political revolution; this brought us to the verge of a dictatorship even in the month of September. And behind the dictatorship, whether it be a militarist one or one of Kerenski – it matters not – there loomed the restoration of Tsarism

In this moment the proletariat, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, sprang into the arena. They chased the beautiful government of “pure democracy” to the devil, and centered all the State Power in the Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Soviets through whose representatives a Provisional Government was established. In this decisive historical moment, the proletariat proved that it had lost its doubt in its own power and gained courage with which to assume the responsibilities of carrying out the tasks of destroying an old world and building up a new one.

The Russian proletariat was the first, and until now the only working class which has ceased being the object of history and has assumed a subjective historical position; it no longer suffers history to mould it, but it creates history.

The seizure of power by the proletariat, under the leadership of the Bolsheviki, taught us one great lesson. It is the necessity and the significance of armed revolution, even by a minority. But this lesson of the Russian Revolution draws a very sharp distinction. It shows how wrong historically are our little bookkeeper politicians, those who want to reduce the revolution to a sum in addition and subtraction, those glib talkers who believe that the struggle for the seizure of power by the working class should only be undertaken when conditions “allow”, namely, those who wish to secure such a majority for the revolutionary struggle that its result is a foregone conclusion. This conception reduces the idea of revolution to that of an insurance company in good standing which pays promptly, and in gold at that. These misconceptions were shattered by the Russian Revolution.

But the revolutionary action of the proletariat of Petrograd and Moscow also excluded all romantic Putch adventures. If was not the act of an intrepid little party which, without any close connection with the proletarian masses, hunched revolutionary slogans and formulae into the void. No, the revolutionary acts of the Bolsheviki was the heroic deed of an organized minority party which had already assured itself of contact with the masses on an extensive scale and which was deeply railed in the masses.

In history the seizure of power by the Soviets under the leadership of the Bolsheviki, appears as a brilliant isolated deed, as though it were accomplished at one stroke. But such was not the case. This intrepid deed was preceded by months of the most zealous and tenacious propaganda and organization work by the Bolsheviki among the masses. Not only was the sin port of the broad masses assured them through this struggle, but the Bolshevik war-cries were understood by the masses and they made them their aims of struggle.

So the act of revolution was not a revolutionary acrobatic feat of a daring little party, but a revolutionary deed of the great revolutionary masses.

The most decisive factor was the daring: whether it would be victory or defeat could in no way be foretold. But they neither could nor would forego the attempt. He who wishes to postpone a revolutionary act until the victory is certain, postpones victory to the days of St. Never, since he thus not only declines the revolutionary struggle, but actually renounces the Revolution. The revolutionary work of a party can be ever so skilful and its propaganda ever so diligently spread among the proletarian masses, yet victory is never assured. One must dare in order to win. The Bolsheviki, the revolutionary proletariat, won the fight in the Russian Revolution in their first daring uprising only because they had the courage to dare.

That is the lesson of the Russian Revolution, which the workers of all countries must take to heart.

It is well to look before you leap, but don’t be so occupied in looking that you forget to leap. The preliminary period of preparation before the Revolution is only for the strengthening of our forces so that we may advance.

Comrades, as soon as the Russian workers, supported by the Russian peasants, had seized political power and were proceeding to build up their dictatorship through the Soviet system, mother historical truth came to light. It was the truth which Engels expressed in a letter to Bebel of December 11th, 1884, in complete refutation of the babblings of the reformists of all countries, – that democracy is the only road by which the emancipation of the proletariat may be attained. Engels knew that on the day of the revolutionary crisis and after the revolution, the proletariat could have no more furious and bitter enemies than the “pure democrats”. But let me read this quotation to you:

“Pure democracy, in the period of revolution may assume new importance as the last safety anchor. That is why the so-called feudal bureaucratic forces (in the period from March to September 1848) supported the liberals in order to keep the revolutionary masses down. In any case, our only enemy on the day of crisis and afterwards, will be the reactionary forces grouped around the pure democracy: and this I believe should not be lost sight of.”

Comrades, it is remarkable that the reformist gentlemen – those gentlemen who are so busy in using Marx and Engels to oppose the Russian Revolution and the conception of the proletarian revolution, those gentlemen who are so busy singing in many tongues the praises of democracy – these gentlemen seem to have forgotten completely this particular view of Engels. The Russian Revolution has plainly shown how correct Engels was. Even on the very day of the Revolution and in the time immediately following the establishment of Soviet Power, the democrats came forward as the bitterest enemies of proletarian class rule. This “pure democracy” was regarded by the Russian proletariat since the revolution as the class rule of capital, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

The solution advocated by the democrats in their struggle against Soviet rule was the Constituent Assembly as opposed to the Soviets. The democrats opposed to the Soviet power which was the creation of the Revolution, demanded the Constituent Assembly.

The democrats had had about eight months in which to elect and assemble the Constituent Assembly. But they did not do this; neglecting to carry into life what they had characterized as the purest expression of the will of the people. Why? The Constituent Assembly could not have assembled without raising the menacing spectre of the proletarian and peasant revolution. There was the spectre of the agrarian revolution in the form of the peasants cry for land and peace. There was the danger of the proletarian revolution in the control of production. Therefore, the democrats continually postponed, first the election of the Constituent Assembly, and then its convocation.

Then suddenly, the demand for the Constituent Assembly was made the battle cry of the pure democrats, in order to overthrow the Soviet power. The Constituent Assembly was declared to be something sacred, the only way by which a proper system of government could be created. The petty bourgeois socialists, the reformists, in alliance with the bourgeois parties in all countries, were not the only ones to demand the Constituent Assembly. This demand found an echo even in our own revolutionary ranks I wish to remind you that no less a person than the great theoretician of Communism Rosa Luxemburg, at one time put forward the same demand, namely: the Constituent Assembly and the Soviets as backbone of the proletarian State. The significance of this demand may be seen from the fact that it made its appearance again a short time ago. During the Kronstadt uprising a section of the Social-Revolutionaries, and even the leader of the Cadets Miliukov, raised this cry for a Constituent Assembly and the Soviets, – but naturally Soviets without Communists, in other words without action ...

But, aside from this, what was the situation after the conquest of power by the proletariat? Is there any justification for the opposition to the revolutionary government which still exists in certain circles of the working class on account of its having disbanded the Constituent Assembly when it first met in council on January 5th? Let us examine the circumstances carefully. The Constituent Assembly declared from the very start that it did not intend to co-operate with the Soviets, but to oppose them. It denied the right of the Soviets as a state power, thereby denying the Revolution itself. The Social-Revolutionists, the Menshevik and the bourgeois majority, refused to recognize the Soviet Power and provisional government. They even refused to discuss the question. the Bolsheviki in the Constituent Assembly, and with them the Left Wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries, answered this arrogant declaration of war as it should have been answered. They left the Constituent Assembly, and the Soviets declared the Assembly dissolved and had it dispersed.

Many critics of the Russian Revolution among the European and American proletariat acknowledged the correctness of this policy of the Bolsheviki which was really the policy of the Revolution. The Soviet power was justified in dispersing the Constituent Assembly, the Assembly had been elected under different conditions and no longer represented the views and the will of the large masses of the working class. The subsequent elections to the Soviet proved this definitely. But, said these critics, the Soviet Government should at once have proceeded with new elections. New elections, however, were not to be thought of, not only for technical reasons which were then advanced, such as the bad state of the means of transportation, the disconnection between the centres of political life, and the far-off districts of the country, and the resulting impossibility to elect an Assembly which would really represent the will of the people. There were other reasons of deeper historical and political significance against it. To call a Constituent Assembly, and to place the decision as to the form of Government in its hands would have been nothing less than to deny the right of the Soviet Power and of the Revolution itself. What could possibly be the role of the Constituent Assembly acting beside the Soviets? Should the Constituent Assembly be merely a deliberating body and the decisions left in the hands of the Soviets? This would not have agreed at all with the demands for a “pure democracy”. The “pure democracy” would not be content with an advisory capacity, it wanted to rule. But the Soviet Power could not allow itself to become reduced to an advisory body. The Russian proletariat could not have shared its power with the bourgeoisie after the Revolution had placed it entirely in its hands. Such a dual government could not exist long; this dualism would have led inevitably and very soon to a struggle for power between the Constituent Assembly and the Soviets. The work of the Revolution would have been endangered the existence of the Constituent Assembly beside the Soviets would have given the counter-revolution a legal rallying point to carry on its illegal and legal work against the revolution. Therefore, down with the Constituent Assembly, all power to lhe Soviets! This was the only possible slogan if the political power were to remain in the hands of the proletariat

Another measure of the Russian Revolution aroused the indignation of the critics of the Russian Revolution, namely the Soviet Electoral Law. This electoral law, as is well known, limits the right of suffrage in so far as it denies it to all exploiters. Employers of labor can neither vote nor be elected to office. Outside of these, all workers above 18 enjoy the suffrage right. This limitation of the suffrage right was necessary for the political expropriation of the bourgeoisie. The Soviet regime places the State power in the hands of the working wasses. In shops and in all villages, they elect representatives of the Soviet. Since the bourgeoisie can neither vote nor be elected to office, there was no danger that they might regain any portion of the political power.

Some people have said that the refusal of the suffrage right was a petty measure which deterred many creative talents from working for the reconstruction of the new order. Of course, the number of bourgeois who lost their suffrage right was very small; but its social and economic power was still considerable. The proletariat, in figthing for power could not give to the bourgeoisie even the smallest particle of its political power and political rights.

Furthermore, the denial of the suffrage right was a brandmark of social contempt. He who did not work, be it with brain or with hand, he who existed as the exploiter and parasite in society had no right to decide upon the political and social structure of the new regime.

There is another consideration why the Soviet power deprived the exploiting class of the right to vote. The suffrage right is the political and legal expression of the character of a society. The right to vote shows the economic basis of the society, the right and power of its various classes. The spread of suffrage into the bourgeois order after their evolution meant only that political rights and political power passed from the old feudal land owners to the capitalist exploiters. It suffered property, income and tax limitations. The introduction of universal suffrage meant that a new class was rising besides the owning class, that of the producers. Universal suffrage means that in addition to property, human labor and the social services of the individual are also rewarded by political power and political rights. The Soviet Regime however, does not base its social order on the division of power between bourgeoisie and proletariat, between the owning and laboring classes but upon the working class alone. In accordance with this character of the Soviet Government as a workers’ government, the suffrage right could be granted only to the workers, but not to the employers.

It was not sufficient, comrades, that the dictatorship of the Proletariat, the Soviet Republic, be created on paper in so and so many paragraphs. It had to become an actual fad. This could be achieved only in the fight against the bourgeoisie, and the counter-revolution. The Soviet State had to defend itself from the very first day of its existence, not only against the Russian bourgeoisie, but also against the bourgeoisie of the whole world, which was in complete solidarity with it from the start. It had to fight the counter-revolution at home and on all fronts. The young proletarian power had to be defended against both internal and external enemies.

The first word of the Soviets was the word of peace. But not peace in a pacifist sense, as I will show later. Soviet Russia demobilized, retired from the world war.

But what was the answer it received to its word of peace? The armies of the German Imperialists in whose ranks were the Social Democrats with the Erfurt program in their knapsacks, hurled themselves on Petrograd and invaded the Ukraine and other territories. The Entente launched an attack upon the Soviet power and rendered political, financial, and military assistance to the counter-revolution.

A Red Army had to be created if the Soviet power was to be saved. It meant the organization and use of force against force.

Besides the Red Army, which was one of the forms of the force called for the defence of the existence and independence of the Workers’ Government on the battlefield, there was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the Terror. Both these forms of force were an unavoidable historical necessity, as harsh weapons of self-defence if the Soviet State was to survive and develop.

Because of the influence of reformist leaders there are still large masses of the working class who do not understand the historical necessity and the real nature of Terror. They abuse the Red Army as an expression of Soviet Imperialism; they were especially indignant over the “barbarism” of the Terror. But let us look at thinks as they really are; The Red Terror was the answer of the Russian Revolution to the White Terror of the more powerful bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie not only attempted to destroy the political power of the workers by plots and insurrections, it also used its whole influence to prevent the reconstruction of the social and economic life of the country. The Soviet Terror was nothing but an unavoidable policy of self-defence. The task of the Russian Revolution was that which Karl Marx had designated in his treatise The Class War in France as the first duty of any revolution; it had to destroy its enemy. Besides destroying the enemy, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Terror had still another task, – to discourage the counter-revolution, to rob it of its last hope of ever re-establishing the rule of the exploiters.

A Revolution is not a young maiden wandering in white robes with a green palm in her hand. It could only come armed with shield and sword to oppose its enemies.

The acts of terror of the proletarian dictatorship are not arbitrary acts of the Revolution. They had a big purpose. It was an evil to prevent a worse evil. The Terror was a necessary act of self defence. Some weep over the hundreds, the thousands who have fallen in the civil war as victims of the Terror. Some tear their hair in despair over the strangulation of democracy, and bourgeois liberties by the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, by the Terror. But no one speaks of the tens of thousands who have fallen as victims of the counter-revolution. No one speaks of the tens of thousands more who would have met the same fate had it not been that the counter-revolution was defeated by force! None of the reformists mention the fact that were ft not for the severe measure of the revolution, millions and millions would still be suffering from the barbarian capitalist oppression and exploitation, the prey of misery and death.

Ninth Session

Comrades, I broke off yesterday with a declaration that the Soviet power cannot possibly dispense with the use of force for its defence and maintenance. Utterly erroneous, however, is the contention of our reformist and bourgeois opponents that the Soviet power exists thanks to force alone. The state cannot maintain power for long with the aid of bayonets, the eight months of coalition government in Russia and especially the months of the Kerensky regime of Social Revolutionaries, gave ample proof of this. The statement applies especially to an epoch of revolution, in which days count as months and years as decades or centuries. The Soviet Power had to justify its existence by an active policy.

The international trend of Soviet policy occupies the foreground in this connection. It secured unequivocal expression in the attitude of the Soviet Power towards the problems of war and peace. Peace was the first demand of the proletarian suit. Doubtless the cry for peace was largely rooted in the poverty the war had engendered; it was under the pressure of poverty that the peasant and proletarian masses clamoured for peace. But another, and certainly quite as strong a factor in the demand for peace, was the consciousness of the international revolutionary solidarity of the workers of the world. In the Class War in France Marx wrote:

“The Social Revolution was proclaimed in France, but it could not be achieved their. The Social Revolution, speaking generally, cannot be achieved inside of national barriers.”

From the very outset, this conviction was the left motive of the Russian Revolution, of Bolshevist revolutionary policy. Among the first decrees of the provisional government came an appear to other governments and nations on behalf of peace. This appeal made it perfectly plain that those who issued it were not under the spell of bourgeois pacifist illusions, but were demanding peace as a revolutionary act of the first step to the World Revolution. In particular, the workers of Germany, Great Britain, and France, were reminded that they had already done great and valuable services for humanity, and that it behoved them, therefore, to do their duty now by the deliverance of mankind from the miseries of war.

The appeal of the Soviet Republic for peace by way of the proletarian revolution was lost in the void, although unquestionable peace and the Revolution will never again be obtainable upon such easy terms as were possible, had there been in other countries a prompt continuation of the Proletarian Revolution. A whole year of crimes, of horrors, of the wastage of life and property, would have been spared. Most important of all, the proletarian masses were then in possession of armed power, which they could have turned with deadly effect against the exploiting class.

Peace however, was not brought about by the World Revolution. The Soviet Republic was forced to make peace with the Zweibund – the Peace of Brest-Litovsk. This Peace greatly accentuated the difficulties of the internal situation of the young proletarian State. The Social Revolutionaries, the most compactly organized power of the counter-revolution in Soviet Russia, made this peace the pretext for scandalous incitements against the Soviet Power, declaring that the Soviet Power was responsible for the military collapse.

But what was the real state of affairs? The young Soviet State had to pay for the crimes and follies of the Kerensky Government’s June offensive by accepting the seventies and humiliations of the Brest-Litovsk Peace. It had to pay for the imperialism of “pure democracy”. A more specific attack on the part of the Social Revolutionaries, the counter-revolutionists, was their assertion that by the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, the Soviet Power had strengthened German or Hohenzollern militarism at the expense of the “democracy” and “Kultur” of Entente Imperialism.

In reality Brest-Litovsk was for German imperialism the direct route to Versailles and the Peace of Versailles. The victory mania of German imperialism flamed fiercely. All the forces of the Central Powers were staked upon the war. Then ensued the collapse of German militarism and German imperialism. Sow, among the forces leading to this collapse we must unquestionably incluse the Russian Revolution and its example as one of the strongest factors in undermining the will to war of the German and Austrian armies. When the German proletarians began to refuse to be bled any longer upon the battlefields for the benefit of the German bourgeoisie, the first halting word expressive of a renunciation of the war was the demand for soldiers’ councils. When the military collapse culminated in political revolution, the first word of the German Revolution was “workers’ and peasants’ councils”. Whence did the working masses of Germany take this watchword of revolution? They had learned it from the Russian Revolution.

Unfortunately these revolutionists were content with the first letters of the revolutionary alphabet. The German proletariat had not as yet learned to read the book of revolution fluently. It had not learned what the Russian workers and peasants, “backward and illiterate”, had been taught in eight months by the capitalist policy of the coalition governments. Four years later, the lesson is still unlearned. The German workers, handed back to the bourgeoisie the political power concentrated in the councils. Instead of the dictatorship of the proletariat, democracy was established, in other words, the class rule of the bourgeoisie. For the time being, therefore, there was no fulfilment of the hopes of the Russian revolutionary leaders that the World Revolution was going to run a rapid course. The counter-revolutionaries twitted the Bolsheviki for their conviction that the Russian Revolution was merely to be the prelude to the imminent world revolution.

Comrades! mockery is easy enough, but there is no justification here for the jibe. The leaders of the Russian Revolution recognized very clearly the trend and the aim of the incipient world revolution. As to the tempo, they may have been mistaken. Why? The aims and the trend of any historical development are plainly discernable. They are displayed by the working of the objective forces of society. But the tempo depends mainly upon the subjective energies of the historical process; that is to say, in the case we are now considering, upon the revolutionary consciousness and activities of the proletarian masses. In the climate of this factor so many imponderabilities are concerned that it is impossible to prophesy confidently concerning the tempo of the world revolution. But what the wiseacres of universal history stigmatized as an error of calculation, has become one of the strongest motive forces maintaining the persistent energy of the Russian Revolution. This error of calculation has been ten times, a hundred times, more fruitful in its influence far beyond the boundaries of Soviet Russia than all the would-be clever recipes of the self-satisfied calculators. The inviolable conviction that the world revolution must progress, that it would complete what had been begun on Russian soil – this conviction gave the Russian proletarians the confidence, the religious faith in the world revolution and in the revolutionary solidarity among the workers of all lands which I still keeps the masses of Soviet Russia fresh, enthusiastic in the light, eager for work, bold and resolute, after five years of fierce struggle.

Let us pass from the peace policy of the Russian Revolution to its economic policy. The economic policy was to create the steadfast energy of the revolutionary proletariat. It was to revolutionize society.

from the first, the Revolution turned its proletarian side outwards. Its economic policy had to manifest a tendency towards the Communist goal. If the political Soviet Power aims at realizing Communism, it must abolish private property in the means of production. Nor would this suffice. It must reorganize the whole economic structure of society, purposely in the Communist direction. This was a mighty task, and the attempt to solve it has exposed the tragic side of the Russian Revolution. The tragedy lies in this, that there is a contrast between the clear rind passionate will to realize Communism here and now, in all its perfection, and the weakness and backwardness of the existing economic and social conditions under which this will has to operate.

If we wish to understand the economic policy of the Russian Revolution, we must form a clear mental picture of the economic and social forces that were available for achieving a communist transformation of the Proletarian State. What were the forces upon which the Russian Revolution could count for the economic transformation of society into a Communist society? In contradiction to utopianism, Marxism starts from the view that the foundation of trie social revolution must be supplied by the highest attainable economico-technical development, which shall have brought about a titanic growth of productive energies and shall have created the most perfect instruments and methods for the performance of productive work. On the other hand, economic evolution must have brought into being a proletariat comprising the immense majority of the population, a proletariat of hand and brain workers that shall be competent to fulfill the economic and social tasks of effecting the transformation of Capitalism to Communism.

What was the position of Soviet Russia in these respects? The Soviet State, in its economic and social structure, may be compared to a pyramid which the Revolution has inverted and balanced upon its apex. This pyramid is supported by a youthful, backward, poorly developed system of machine industry; and by a proletariat which is likewise youthful, comparatively, numerically speaking, little trained, young in capacity to deal with the apparatus of production, to manage and guide it, to use its productive powers to the full – and comparatively inexperienced, likewise in the management of affairs of State. This apex of the inverted pyramid has to support the enormous masses of a peasant agriculture, a peasant population continuing to till the soil by methods which (as Rosa Luxemburg once said) “date back to the days of the Pharaohs.” And of course, these peasants have a mentality appropriate to the tenor of their lives.

Comrades, when we realize the state of affairs, we cannot but say: “It is a miracle that this inverted pyramid is still standing, although for five years all the powers of the counter-revolution have been endeavouring to overthrow it”. For the long run, however, the position is untenable. The most expert juggler could not save such a pyramid from falling unless perhaps the heavy masses of the erstwhile base should crush the slender apex beneath their weight.

There would seem to be only two ways of saving the situation. We might hope that the narrow support of the proletariat, should undergo a growth so rapid and extensive as to enable it to withstand all the pressure from above. Or, again, the narrow support might be buttressed from without by the progress of the world revolution by the establishment of Soviet Republics outside the Russian Soviet State. Let us suppose that the proletariat were in a position to find new Soviet States with the highest degree of economic development and (to use bourgeois phraseology) at the highest possible level of culture; suppose that the world proletariat, in fraternal solidarity with Soviet Russia were able speedily to expand and to consolidate the same apex on which the inverted pyramid of Soviet Russia stood, and could thus have accelerated the transformation to communism!

This did not happen; no such Soviet State came into being. The result was that the Russian Revolution and the Russian proletarian State which the revolution had created, had to come to terms with the foreign capitalists. This modus vivendi is the new economic policy, and when we are appraising it we must never forget the peculiar Russian conditions under which it came into being. We must not judge it as if the measures that have been adopted formed part of an elaborated plan for the social revolution, carefully thought out in some professor’s study. The criticism of our judgment must be whether these measures are suitably adapted to circumstances which were not freely chosen but were given as such; whether they are steps likely to lead in the communist direction; whether the measures are taken with communism as their goal.

It is above all from their point of view that we must judge the bolshevist agrarian policy, which has been so adversely criticized by the reformists and by bourgeois adversaries, but has also been sharply criticized by some members of our own Party.

I must dwell for a moment upon this matter of the agrarian policy. It is of course impossible here to go into details, but an understanding on broad lines is essential to an understanding of the Russian Revolution, and is moreover of extreme importance as an aid to the solution of the problems which the world proletariat will have to face everywhere after the conquest of political power – although under somewhat different conditions from Soviet Russia. Logical enough, after their fashion, are those Mensheviki who condemn the Russian Revolution on principle because of its agrarian policy. Whether they are justified m calling themselves Marxists is another story.

When we appraise the Bolshevik agrarian policy, we have to remember that capitalism, despite the manifold means at its disposal, has hitherto been powerless to make an end of petty peasant agriculture and to replace it by higher forms. Doubtless capitalism has proletarianized the petty peasant farming of extensive regions and even of whole countries. But petty peasant agriculture has persisted none the less. I do not think only of the Balkan lands, whose characteristics are still predominantly those imposed by petty peasant agriculture; nor is the assertion applicable solely in addition to the petty peasant masses in Italy and France. In Germany, a country where industrial development is far advanced, there is still an extensive stratum of small peasants. Even in the U.S., there are numerous small peasant farms, though of course here when we speak of “ small farms” we must apply an American, not a European, standard.

Now then, can it be expected that the Russian Revolution, that the Bolshevik agrarian policy, should in a moment succeed in making an end of petty peasant agriculture? In view of the numerical strength of the peasant population of Russia, it is impossible for the Revolution to make good without an agrarian policy that should commend itself to the peasant masses in Russia, where 80% of the population are small peasants, 9/10 of whom are estimated to be working peasants. The Revolution, the seizure of political power by the proletariat, would have been absolutely impossible in defiance of the will of those masses. I will go further, a revolution would have been impossible without the active support of those masses. Whoever desired the proletarian revolution in Russia must perforce swallow the Bolshevik agrarian policy. You could not have the one without the other.

One of the decrees of the Provisional Government was the abolition of private property in land. The right to till the land was conceded to all persons without distinction of sex, who themselves worked as cultivators. There was a period during which the great estates were being broken up by the peasants in a wild chaotic fashion; at this time the farming implements and the farm stock of the large landed estates were distributed in like fashion. There came a period when an attempt was made to carry out land distribution in accordance with fixed rules, to avoid the parcelling of the large estates and to effect the deliberate transformation of petty farming into a general system of national farming. This was one of the phases of War Communism, “with its requisitions” etc. Land hunger, had made them strong supporters of the Soviet Power. The consequence of this agrarian revolution were not those which Rosa Luxemburg had feared, namely, that the Russian mujik would succumb to political indifference. He did not sit down by his fireside as soon as he had secured his little plot of land. His land hunger satisfied, he became the heroic defender of the Soviet Republic. He defended his plot of land within the Soviet State against any possible return of the landowner. At the same time the expectations of the leaders of the Russian Revolution were not realized. The distribution of land did not contribute toward intensifying class contrast in the rural districts, and did not bring over the poor peasant masses to the side of the industrial proletariat, for common action in the class conflict between the capitalists and the workers. A large class of middle peasantry arose whose interests soon came into conflict with the policy of “military communism.” These middle peasants held in their hands the food and the arms, and thus they forced the introduction of the New Policy, the chief characteristic of which is the food tax in lieu of the compulsory delivery of all agricultural products, minus the necessary existence ration. They forced the introduction of free trade and in connection with it the other well known innovations.

Comrades, it has been said that the Bolshevik agrarian policy is not communistic, that it leads away from Communism and that it is in direct opposition to the task of the Soviet State, which should consist in preparing and carrying out the communist revolution; worse still: that it is barring the way to this revolution. What is the real state of affairs? First of all, was it possible to carry out an agrarian revolution resulting in the preservation of large land estates tending towards large-scale arming and the introduction of the modern methods of agriculture? Those who assert this, do not know what they are talking about. Agriculture in Soviet Russia is characterized by the small peasant farms. At the beginning of the Revolution, big agricultural concerns worth mentioning were to be found only in Poland, in the Baltic provinces and in some parts of the Ukraine. What does this mean for the solution of the agrarian question as recommended by the old socialist prescriptions? There was no apparatus for agricultural production capable of carrying on agriculture on a large scale. Moreover, there was no real modern rural proletariat capable of manipulating and managing such an apparatus of production. It is very characteristic that in Russia we hear continually of a “poor peasantry” (bednota) but never of an agricultural proletariat. Such a proletariat, in the true sense of the word, does not exist. Big agricultural estates that did exist were managed by the land owners according to the old feudal system, and not according to the methods of modern capitalism, with the exception of a few estates owned by “liberal” members of the nobility. Thus it was out of the question that the agrarian policy of the Russian Revolution should be initiated by the establishment of large-scale agricultural production. As things stood (taking also into consideration that the Central Power was not very strong at the beginning) – the agrarian reform had to be, strictly speaking, the work of the peasant masses themselves, and could not help being chaotic.

Is it true that the Bolshevik agrarian policy is putting unsurmountable obstacles in the way of the development of agriculture in the direction of communism? I cannot admit this. It is true that the “ingrained ownership psychology” is still prevalent among the small peasantry in Soviet Russia. In many cases this psychology has been strengthened and consolidated; for how long, that is another question. This alleged ingrained petty bourgeois peasant mentality was not the only factor in the rebellion of the peasants against the measures of military communism. The land hunger turned the peasant into adherents and defenders of the Soviet State. The unsatisfied hunger for manufactured goods drove them away from communism and made them counter-revolutionary. In what form did communism present itself to them? Not as solidarity between maintains the road which leads to communism. Therefore, the Bolsheviki in their economic policy, always aimed for immediate ends which were in the direction of Communism. Lenin summed it up in 1917. What, he asked, were the immediate economic tasks after the conquest of State power? They were the socialization of the great industries, the means of transportation, the banks, the State monopoly of foreign trade, and the control of production by the workers. And the first decrees of the new government aid not go against these demands. The thing progressed slowly. Step by step, broader measures were taken for the elimination of private property in the means of production, in land, etc.

town and village, between the industrial proletariat and the email peasantry, but as “Military Communism”, which took away everything from the peasantry without giving it the necessaries of existence and agricultural production. Therefore, we are justified in assuming that the Soviet economic policy will not be confronted with an unsurmountable anti-communist opposition on the part of the peasants, if industrial production is raised. In judging of the small-peasant psychology, we must not leave out of consideration that the old traditions of primitive village communism have not yet died out among the Russian small peasantry. These traditions have been preserved and strengthened by a primitive, religious attitude regarding property as belonging to God, as God’s property. This belief has been encouraged by the propaganda of the Tolstoyans, the Social-Revolutionaries, the Narodniki and of many religious sects. These relics of a communist orientation are systematically nurtured and furthered by the measures taken by the proletarian state. Notwithstanding the new policy, the land has not become the private property of the peasant. It has remained the property of the proletarian State. The peasants receive it for use, but can neither sell it nor leave it to their heirs. The exploitation of hired labor is prohibited. Moreover, the small peasant farms have been linked up with the general national economy, not only by the food tax, but also by a number of decisions, regulations and instructions concerning the agricultural exploitation of the land. The Soviet Government is deliberately and systematically directing the development of agriculture along co-operative lines. This is also partly done by the initiative of the peasants themselves who, under the pressure of last year’s famine, showed inclination to establish artels and cooperative societies. Neighbors’ Leagues have been formed for the joint purchase and use of machinery, horses etc The Soviet Government is also endeavouring to establish a number of Soviet estates and to encourage the establishment of cooperative estates and agricultural concerns. It is true that the Soviet estates and cooperative concerns with up to date agricultural organizations are like small islands in a huge ocean of small peasant farms, which are estimated to number twelve millions. However, they can play an important role as industrial, technical and social model institutions, and there are proofs that they have already to a great extent fulfilled this role.

One more thing must be taken into consideration. We must not be led to look upon the Russian agrarian revolution in the light of the French peasant emancipation, in spite of the many outward analogies between these two mighty events. We must not forget that the French peasant emancipation was closely connected with the bourgeois revolution, a characteristic of which was the watchword: ownership and individualism. The Russian agrarian revolution, on the other hand, is linked up with the proletarian revolution, the leit-motiv of which is work and solidarity. This creates a quite different social atmosphere for the development of the small-peasant ideology from that which prevailed during the French revolution.

Above all, the Russian small peasantry will learn by experience that its welfare is bound up with the development of industry and with the raising of the proletariat to higher forms of economic and social existence. The peasantry cannot put its production on a more rational basis if it is not supported by flourishing industry and by the achievements of the proletariat. In connection with this, I venture to say that the electrification of the Russian agricultural industry is the best agrarian program and the most effective agrarian reform which the Soviet Power has adopted and is endeavouring to carry out. It establishes solidarity between town and village and a community of economic and agricultural interests between the industrial proletarians and small peasants, which could not be attained in any other way.

This brings me to the following conclusion: Even though the Bolshevik agrarian reform has not been able to solve the agrarian question in a way leading to immediate realization of Communism, it has in no way turned the agrarian development away from the goal of a communist society. On the contrary, it has introduced innovations which, economically, socially and culturally lead the small peasantry towards Communism, and will continue to lead it along the path. For it is self-evident that the psychology of the petty property holders will undergo a change as the conditions of labor and production become different.

The petty bourgeois reform Socialists treat the agrarian policy of the Russian Communist Party as if it were the Fall in the Eden of revolution. According to their opinion, through the agrarian policy, the hereditary sin of capitalism was introduced into the Bolshevik world, the sin which implies the revival of capitalism. I believe this point of view to be fundamentally false. Soviet Russia, apart from the Bolshevik agrarian policy, would perforce have to evolve a modus vivendi with capitalism, in order subsequently to attain to Communism.

The leading Party of the Russian Revolution has not forgotten the final aim of communism in economic policy. It still maintains the road which leads to communism. Therefore, the Bolsheviki in their economic policy, always aimed for immediate ends which were in the direction of Communism. Lenin summed it up in 1917. What, he asked, were the immediate economic tasks after the conquest of State power? They were the socialization of the great industries, the means of transportation, the banks, the State monopoly of foreign trade, and the control of production by the workers. And the first decrees of the new government did not go against these demands. The thing progressed slowly. Step by step, broader measures were taken for the elimination of private property in the means of production, in land, etc.

The proletarian revolution went forward perforce after the April slogan: Workers’ Control of Industry! Why? A large number of the capitalists responded to the measures taken by the Soviet State either by sabotage or by the closing down of their enterprises. There was therefore nothing else for the workers to do except to take over these enterprises and to use them, if they did not wish the national industry to cease altogether or to be shattered.

There was also another reason for this. Soviet Russia had to equip and maintain the Red Army, while surrounded by hostile armies which were equipped by the highly developed industries of the whole world. That could not have been accomplished, if they had limited themselves to the primary economic measures demanded by the circumstances of the young revolution. It necessitated the confiscation and use of all means of production and wealth, the utilization of all productive power. Besides, the bourgeoisie, although deprived of its political power, was still in the possession of strong social influences which it did not hesitate to use against the workers. The bourgeoisie had to be attacked at the root of its power, private property. This was accomplished through the nationalization of all the existing means of production and the land.

Finally, there was another consideration. The defence of Soviet Russia against the attacks of the counter-revolutionaries, caused unheard of sufferings among the broad masses. But the masses bore this with rejoicing, because a certain – how shall I express myself? – kind of rough, primitive communism had been introduced. Thus the Russian Revolution was carried far beyond the limits of its immediate aims.

When people now whine that the revolution is beaten, that it is in flight, it is untrue, the Russian Revolution has retired to its initial position in good order, retaining all the advantages which it originally wished to possess. Certainly, Capitalism returns; that capitalism whose might was broken, which was exiled from the Eden of Soviet Russia for ever. It returns not merely in the form of the petty proprietor, but also of the lessee and concessionaire . It is obvious that these gentlemen have no disinterested desire to take part in the progressive Russian economic life, to build it up and to serve it through cultural methods. They follow a “realistic” aim, that of making profit, the greatest possible profit. But, comrades, the capitalist returns io Soviet Russia no longer the absolute master of his own enterprise. And why not? Because he is no longer master of the State. The profit lust of the concessionaires and the lessees will be curbed through the laws of the working class State, through the administration of these laws by means of the Soviet Power. Of course: In the arena of the new economic policy, the opposition between capital and labor will be revealed in all its sharpness and violence. The Soviet State reckons itself as the trustee, appointed by the proletariat, of all the means of production, all natural resources, and all human labour power. The interests of the proletariat are supreme law io the State. By legal conditions the State renders it impossible for foreign or home capitalists to plunder natural resources. The capitalist is also prevented from increasing his profits, however large they may be, through extreme and inhuman exploitation. The proletarian State is fully conscious that the greatest wealth of Soviet Russia is its toilers, who produce all values. It is fully conscious That the Russian proletariat is not going to stay at its present level of living and working. No, it will raise to a far higher level its physical, spiritual, and professional capacities, and its ethical and cultural activity, in order io become the creators and the defenders of the complete communist society.

Therefore, in the inevitable conflicts between capital and labor in the leased and concessional industrial concerns, the trade unions and co-operative organization will play again a very important role as the fighting organs of the proletariat, and will carry on a very fruitful activity. What will, on the other hand, happen in the non-Soviet countries in which the capitalists are also political masters? In such countries, the State power is only an obstacle to the conflicts between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and this interference always benefits the capitalists, unless the working class be strong enough to hold the State power in check. In Soviet Russia, on the other hand, the State power will be always at the back of the trade unions and of the co-operatives in all the conflicts of the workers with the industrial, trade and usurers’ capital.

There is yet another side to State Capitalism which we must take into consideration. The Soviet Republic does not only carry on State Capitalism as a leasing and concession giving power; it must also be a “State capitalist” in its own industrial concerns. Only a part – and hitherto only a very small part – of the Russian industrial and economic organizations are, so to speak, hired out to the capitalists for exploitation. The other part, and not the least important at that, the heavy industry, the transport, etc., has remained in the hands of the Soviet Power. The Soviet Power, the workers’ State itself is the greatest employer in Soviet Russia. But what does this mean under present circumstances when the Russian economic system finds no allies in other States which are on the way to Communism, but form a link in the chain of the capitalist economic system which exercise a certain influence upon the shaping of conditions? The Soviet State, in its capacity of employer will have to take into consideration in the interests of the class which it represents the “rentability” of the various industrial plants. I will go a step further. Even when the transition period will have to come to an end and when pure Communism will have been established, society will have to produce and accumulate surplus value in the interests of its higher economic and cultural development. What is the conclusion to be drawn from this? That the workers’ State, as employer, may at times get into conflict with the demands and interests of certain workers and groups of workers against which it will have to defend the present and future class interests of the proletariat. It goes without saying that such conflicts cannot and must not be settled in the momentary interests of individuals or separate proletarian groups, or even of separate branches of the economic system. On the contrary, they will always have to be settled in the interests of the proletariat as a class.

It is self-evident that such conflicts are likely to occur in Soviet Russia. The reasons are as follows; at present the Russian proletariat is not yet able to raise from its own ranks sufficient forces to fill the posts of managers and organisers in the industrial concerns. These posts are occupied today by people with a high economic and professional education and experience but lacking communist ideology. Comrades, on this field the trade unions and co-operative organizations have a great task to fulfill, not only as constructive but also as educational organs which must carry on their work in the lower as well as in the upper strata, if you will allow me to say so. In the lower, in order to raise the proletarian masses, in their capacity of producers, to the higher form of efficiency. At times the proletarians might resent this as a hardship. But with respect to this hardship as well as the backwardness of which Comrade Lenin spoke of yesterday, we must bear one thing in mind: outside Russia, in the highly developed Capitalist States the proletariat has for centuries past gone through the hard school of capitalism before it reached its present productive efficiency. The British workers have gone through this hard school and even today the whip of hunger and the scorpions of class exploitation and class domination are brought into play against them. The workers’ State of Soviet Russia, with the assistance of the trade unions and the co-operative societies, will educate its working masses for Communism by milder and more humane methods. But in any case, the workers’ State must educate the proletariat, and must get it accustomed to labor discipline and skilled work. This being so, conflicts between the State and the workers might occur.

The workers’ State with the assistance of the trade unions and the co-operative organizations, will educate a staff of clerks, officials, managers ana administrators who, imbued with the spirit of communism, will change the whole present economic system as rapidly and thoroughly as possible. The officials and administrators must be made to realise what it is to be the representatives and the trusted servants of the workers’ State.

There is one more fact. I venture to say that Soviet Russia is today, notwithstanding its poverty and the disorganization of its economic system, the State with the most advanced labor protection and social welfare legislation and not only on papier. Trade unions and co-operative organizations, in conjunction with the soviet organs are entrusted with the supervision of the proper application of the labour law and of social insurance, and also with their improvement and development They are the real executors of the social reforms. The activity of the trade unions and co-operative organizations with relation to social reform, was formerly considered by the reformist gentry as a means to bolster up capitalism and to prevent revolution. Present events show that we, the radical element, were right in asserting that effective social reforms with the assistance of the trade unions and cooperative organizations, are out of the question before the conquest of political power by the proletariat. It is only after the conquest of the political power by the proletariat that the activity of these organizations can be used as an effective means for leading the entire economic system towards communism. Social reform receives a different aspect and another significance with the advent of proletarian political power. From being a bulwark for the protection and defence of the proletariat against capitalism, social reform becomes a means for building up Communism. The conquest of political power by the proletariat, and the establishment of its dictatorship in a Soviet state are a milestone on the way towards a higher development of the new social order.

I need not speak today of the influence of the new policy in other directions Comrade Lenin did this yesterday in a most illuminating manner, However, I thought it necessary to emphasize this side of the new policy, as it forms an illustration of two facts. Firstly, that by the conquest and consolidation of the political power, the proletariat has not yet crossed the stream, but that it has only reached its banks. The proletariat will only get into the promised land of Communism by means of the general policy, and especially of the economic policy of the proletarian State power. Out of this arise a number of problems: the problem of the relations between town and village, the problem of the political power of the workers, as embodied in the Soviet State and the economic organizations of the proletariat – the trade unions and co-operative organizations. There is also the problem of the relations between the producing workers on the one side and the employees and officials in the industrial concerns on the other side, as well as of the relations between the bureaucracy of the central Soviet institutions and that of the local institutions. The proletariat of every country will have to pay great attention to these State problems after the conquest of political power.

For this reason, we have a good deal to learn from the striking developments of the Russian Revolution, and that not only from those things which appear to be right, but also from those which either appear as being wrong or are so in reality. Above all things, however, we must remain clear with regard to the main problem. This is the seizure of political power for the transformation of society into Communism by the hands of the proletariat itself. All other problems are subordinated to that of the mastery of the State power by the proletariat and for the proletariat. If proof were necessary of the extraordinary importance of the possession of political power for the transition to Communism, this proof is furnished by two classical instances. The first is Soviet Russia; and the second is Germany under the coalition government. In Soviet Russia we have the proletarian political power; socialization of large scale industry; the development of laws for the protection of the workers; the maintenance of the eight-hour day, and the consistent struggle against overtime, – it being permitted only in such cases where it is an absolute necessity in the interests of the workers themselves – the development of social welfare activities; in spite of meagre resources, a development of the social system such as has taken place in no other country: all in all, some advances in economic life, and a beginning of economic reconstruction; and – the most important of all – a slight, but quite distinct improvement in the situation of the proletariat.

On the other hand, we have in Germany a proletariat without political power; a coalition government made up of elements ranging from Stinnes to Scheidemann, and even to Hilferding and Crispien, – in short, instead of socialization, the rule of Stinnes, the breakdown of the bourgeois government; the undermining of social welfare institutions, the schools handed over to the churches, the proletarianization of the middle class under conditions of terrible poverty, the economic breakdown which becomes daily more intensified altogether, and increasing impoverishment of the proletarian masses which will mean literally the death of millions. I believe that these facts show more closely than anything the significance of the maintenance of State power in the hands of the proletariat. But if is not merely this aim alone that has led Soviet Russia to the new economic policy as a “ necessary evil ” produced by conditions specifically Russian. I am more inclined to see in the new economic policy, the only way by which, under the recent circumstances, we can pass over from capitalism into Communism.

But Soviet Russia’s progress towards Communism is not conditioned solely by the new economic policy. As an auxiliary of this stands the intensification of communist knowledge, the most potent flowering of the seed of communist idealism, the crystallization of the high cultural values which Communism implies and which must be brought to their fullest fruition. Therefore, together with the new policy of raising economic life to a new and higher level, must go the broadly-planned work of popular education, especially the education and training of the young. And this education and training must be in the direction of Communism.

Comrades, I should be trespassing beyond the limits of my subject, if I attempted here to describe in detail the important labors accomplished by the Russian Revolution in the particular field of cultural activity. The Russian Revolution is a bearer of culture, a veritable power for culture, such as may be found nowhere else. Recall to your memory all the measures which have been taken in the field of popular education and art. In this connection I will instance only the important cultural factor which the Red Army has been. The soldiers of the Red Army, who have passed through the schools of revolutionary “militarism” return to their villages as disseminators of culture in the truest sense. Comrades, in the five years of its existence the Russian Revolution has verily accomplished a titanic task in the cultural held. If one were to judge it only by this standard, its fame would still be immortal ... But how should we have attained this without the Seizure of political power by the proletariat? Upon what assumption can we base our reliance that Soviet Russia will continue as a power to transform society, economically and culturally, to Communism? I consider it to be an absolutely essential preliminary condition for this, that the Communist Party, the directing revolutionary class party, maintain a profound and organic contact with the broadest proletarian masses who are outside this Party. Out of this strong unity was the Russian Revolution born. Thanks to it, it has been maintained until today. But, besides this, it will assure us of a communist future. It must be a really organic unity of the Parry and the masses, which is not the result of the carrying out of a mechanical scheme from above, of a power which is imposed upon the proletariat, but comes from a spontaneous mass force flowing from the masses themselves. The existence and methods of the Communist Party of Soviet Russia is the complete and dynamic expression of revolutionary knowledge and revolutionary will, the revolutionary self-consciousness and initiative of the proletarian masses. The life and will of the masses flow in a rich current from them into the Party; and streams from the Party back to the masses by a thousand invisible channels. We hear murmurs of a crippled and dying dictatorship in Soviet Russia, of a party clique. These are slogans which are nothing more than the echoes of the old anti-Bolshevik lies and libels about the conditions in that country where the proletariat has not only seized power, but is still guarding it and will nevermore cower under the lash of the bourgeoisie. What a contrast to the social and working life of the proletariat in bourgeois countries! What a burning thirst for knowledge! What a cultural inspiration! What activity of countless forces which were previously slumbering!

The Soviet power, acting under the influence of the Communist Party brought out in the working class its most beautiful latent capacities: it has brought to the light most beautiful ethical and aesthetical productions. Look at the Soviet organs, look at the various social organizations. Everywhere we find anticipation and expectation and activity as in no other country in the world. The masses struggle forward and upward. Their heart and their head is the Communist Party. We who come from foreign lands see much suffering, many sorry defects. But in spite of all that what a strong intellectual life here, to work here, yes to die here, if nothing else remains.

Comrades, I recapitulate. Looking at the achievements of the Russian Revolution, so-called friends of order, such as wish to avoid a revolution at all costs, such who hate it, or fear it, or accept it only as a cheaply won “beautiful” revolution will say: Was a revolution necessary to produce this, could it not have been brought about by reforms, along the peaceful ways of democracy? No, I answer. For without the revolution, there would have been no Soviet regime, no creative political change, no Workers’ government, no Dictatorship of the Proletariat; and without this decisive change, a new, higher, liberating spiritual life could never have been born.

The Russian Revolution need feel no shame at the alleged smallness of its accomplishments. What it has done is amazing, incomparably great. A proletarian revolution has a far greater, much more extensive and far-reaching work to accomplish than any bourgeois revolution. The bourgeois revolution creates a new state apparatus, it revolutionizes the political relation of forces and all that goes with it. It produces nothing creative in the field of economics. Nevertheless, it took a hundred years after the great French revolution to secure its greatest accomplishment, the Republic. It was the insurrection of the Commune which finally did it. The proletarian revolution must do more than “hammer the old, senile capitalist State into the new Soviet government”; it must revolutionize the whole basis of social economics, and with it the whole of society. This is a gigantic task; it cannot be accomplished overnight, nor by the work of a few great personalities. It must be the work of the whole proletarian class, and it will take many decades before the work is accomplished. Karl Marx wrote in his controversy with Max Stirner that we should not grow discouraged if the proletarian revolution should last for many decades. Its task is not only to create new social conditions, but also to educate man. the new man for the new society. This is what we must remember when we look at the first proletarian State in the world.

The Russian Revolution has accomplished more than any revolution before it. It has not remained stationary, it has developed far beyond its original purpose. With fire and sword, Russia has been cleansed of its old feudal institutions, with a thoroughness which no bourgeois revolution has known.

Look at England. In spite of the bourgeois revolution, in spite of long years of bourgeois class rule, there still remain strong traces of the old feudal order.

Look at Germany, the country of the latest bourgeois revolution. The first victory of the revolution, the Republic trembles before a Kapp-Putsch or an Orgesch-insurrection. In Soviet Russia, Czarism could never return; nor such a modern capitalist State, as the dream the reformists and petty bourgeois dream of. The proletarian revolution has brought into the consciousness of millions so many germs of a new productive life that this life can never be destroyed. Soviet Russia will remain as a proletarian State. It is the first type of a proletarian State in this period of transformation from capitalism to communism. As such, all it does and does not do, all its accomplishments as well as its mistakes and its weakness are fruitful with lessons for the world proletariat and for the world revolution. The proletariat of Russia and the Russian Communist Party have paid dearly to learn how political power is conquered and maintained. They must suffer now to learn how a proletarian State, abandoned by the world proletariat, can transform itself slowly into a Communist society. The policy of the Bolsheviks has great significance in this connection. Some regard is as nothing but a vague fishing in the dark, a series of mistakes and unconsequential actions. Just the opposite is true. The policy of the Russian Communists appears as a whole to follow a straight unified, and consistent line. This policy is the first to attempt in the history of the masses to apply the theory of Marxism to practical facts: it is the history [of the] attempt of the proletariat to become a subjective factor in the history of the world; it is the first willed attempt to make history, it is the conscious attempt to direct historical forces, to make history and not suffer it as a play of blind objective forces, as in bourgeois society.

Comrade Lenin said yesterday that we still have much to learn, both here in Soviet Russia and outside of it. He said that we did not understand Russian sufficiently abroad to comprehend the resolutions of our Third Congress, conceived and expressed in Russian.

In a way, Comrade Lenin was right. The foreign proletariat has not yet sufficiently learnt to read Russian, i.e., to act as Russians. Just as the Communist International is the centre of the world revolution, so should it be our university for reciprocal experience. Learn, and save time! This is Lenin’s call to us. And he who wins time, wins all!

Time, comrades, not in the sense of wasteful, idle and listless waiting, but in which every minute is exploited in passionate activity. Let us use it here in Soviet Russia, to learn the use of the art of creation of the Proletarian State. Let us use it outside of Russia, to learn to handle the sword with which to conquer political power.

So is forged the sword of the World Revolution, which will free mankind. From the ruins of the world war, let new life flourish. In this period, the highest, most powerful, most fruitful and most creative form of historical development is the Revolution, the expression of the proletarian masses.


Last updated on 5 January 2021