First Congress of the Communist International

On the White Terror

Source: Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congress of the Third International, translated by Alix Holt and Barbara Holland. Ink Links 1980;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

6 March, 1919

The capitalist system was from the very beginning a system of robbery and mass murder; it has been responsible for the horrors of primitive accumulation; its colonial policy has exported the bible, brandy and syphilis and entailed the ruthless extermination of whole tribes and peoples; it has brought poverty, and starvation, exhaustion and the premature death of hundreds of millions of enslaved proletarians; bloody reprisals against the working class whenever it has ventured to rise up against its oppressors; and finally this huge and monstrous massacre, which has turned world production into the production of millions of corpses.

From the outset of the war, the ruling classes, not content with slaughtering more than ten million on the fields of battle, and wounding an even larger number, began to establish vicious dictatorships within their own countries. The Tsarist government shot and hanged workers, organised pogroms of Jews, destroyed anything living; the Austrian monarchy drowned the indignation of the Ukrainian and Czech peasants and workers in blood, the British bourgeoisie butchered the best representatives of the Irish people; German imperialism introduced measures of fierce repression in its own country, the first victims of which were the revolutionary sailors; Russian soldiers were executed in France for refusing to defend the interests of the French bankers; in America the bourgeoisie lynched the internationalists, sentenced some of the most active members of the proletariat to twenty years in gaol, and shot workers on strike.

When the imperialist war began to assume the form of a civil war, the ruling classes, the greatest criminals history has ever known, realised that their tyrannical regimes were in danger of extinction and their cruelty knew no bounds.

In the struggle to preserve the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie is prepared to use methods of unheard-of brutality, beside which the atrocities of the Middle Ages, the Inquisition and colonial expansion pale.

The bourgeois class, sensing its end is near, turns automatically to destroy the most important productive force in human society – the proletariat. Its vile reactionary role is revealed, naked and unadorned.

The Russian generals – the living incarnation of the Tsarist regime – have been shooting workers, and are continuing to do so with the direct or indirect support of the social-traitors; during the rule of the Social-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, thousands of workers and peasants filled the prisons, and generals liquidated whole regiments for insubordination. Krasnov and Denikin, with the cordial assistance of the Entente powers, have shot and hanged tens of thousands of workers, executing ‘every tenth’, and leaving bodies to hang from the gallows for several days to put fear into the population; in the Urals and the Volga area, the Czechoslovaks have chopped their prisoners limb from limb, have drowned them in the Volga, have buried them alive; in Siberia, Tsarist generals have killed thousands of Communists, annihilated countless numbers of workers and peasants.

The German and Austrian bourgeoisies and the social-traitors of these countries have fully demonstrated their savagery by initiating a policy of White Terror: in the Ukraine they plundered the workers and peasants and then hanged them on their mobile iron gallows; many Austrian and German Communists – their fellow-countrymen, our comrades – were also put to death. In Finland, that classic example of bourgeois democracy, they have helped the bourgeoisie to exterminate twelve to fourteen thousand proletarians and torture to death more than fifteen thousand prisoners; in Helsingfors they forced women and children to walk in front of their lines, shielding them from [the workers'] machine-gun fire. Their support made possible the campaigns of bloodshed launched by the Finnish White Guards and their Swedish accomplices against the defeated Finnish proletariat. In Tammerfors, women sentenced to death were forced to dig their own graves. In Vyborg, hundreds of Finns and Russians – men, women, and children – were murdered.

At home, the reactionary fury of the German social democrats has culminated in the violent suppression of the Communist proletarian rising, the brutal murder of Liebknecht and Luxemburg and the murder and annihilation of worker members of the Spartacists. White Terror on a mass and individual basis (Kurt Eisner) is the flag under which the bourgeoisie marches.

The picture is the same in other countries. In democratic Switzerland everything is ready for the execution of workers, should they dare to break the capitalist law. Hard labour, the electric chair and lynch-law have become the favourite symbols of democracy and freedom. In Hungary and Britain, Czechoslovakia and Poland – in fact, everywhere – the situation is the same. The bourgeois murderers will stop at nothing. They are prepared to whip up chauvinism to strengthen their own rule. Ukrainian bourgeois democracy, led by the Menshevik Petlyura, and Polish bourgeois democracy with the social-patriot Pilsudsky at the helm have instigated anti-Jewish pogroms which far exceed anything organised by the Tsarist police. And, if the Polish reactionary and ‘socialist’ rabble has murdered the representatives of the Russian Red Cross, this is but a drop in the ocean of the crimes and atrocities committed by the inhuman capitalist system in its death throes.

The ‘League of Nations’, which is supposed, according to the declaration of its creators, to bring peace, is waging a vicious war against the proletarians of all countries. In a bid to maintain their rule, the Entente powers are using their coloured troops to pave the way for White Terror of an unprecedented ferocity.

The First Congress of the Communist International denounces the capitalist murderers and their social-democratic assistants, and calls on the workers of all countries to intensify their efforts to overthrow capitalism and hence end, once and for all, this system of murder and robbery.