Source: The Communist Review, May 1922, Vol. 3, No. 1.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
WITH this number of the Communist Review we pass into our second year. When our first issue appeared, last May, we promised our readers to produce a monthly journal that would devote its pages to a candid examination and a fearless defence of the most important pronouncements issued by the international working class movement. No sooner had the Review made its appearance than an unsuccessful attempt was made by the Government to suppress it. For a Communist publication, carrying on its work in a capitalist State, suppression is the highest form of flattery. We refused to permit the hostile activities of the Government, which were directed against the Review, to intimidate us. At a time when the Party was fighting in the courts to defend its right to publish the documents of the Communist International, the Review printed the most important theses issued by the third Congress at Moscow. At a time when worshippers of democracy, like Messrs. Snowden and MacDonald, were bravely protesting, in conjunction with the Morning Post, against the proletarian dictatorship of Soviet Russia, they cowardly and silently stood aside while their party printing works, the National Labour Press, working hand in hand with the Government, attempted to sabotage both the Communist and the Review by refusing to print these journals, which had, up till then, been printed at their establishment. These difficulties did not prevent the Review from going forward. Month after month, during the past year, our circulation swept forward until the Review became the most widely read monthly organ of working class political thought in this country.
We take this opportunity to thank the many comrades and friends who have assisted the Review. Some of them gave money and helped to enable us to produce some very important numbers; the call of the struggle against the Russian famine; the cruel victimisation of our active members, who are always the first to suffer during periods of unemployment and industrial strife, has prevented us from getting much financial assistance recently. Despite this serious drawback we intend to carry on. We want particularly to thank those who so splendidly worked for the Review by sending in articles and by offering to do translations. Last year we had to depend upon one or two comrades to do translations; this year we have over twenty highly qualified linguists working for the Review. In every town in the country there are groups of comrades who have willingly undertaken the hard and difficult task of pushing forward the circulation. Many of these ardent workers are neither speakers nor writers for the movement, but inasmuch as they assist in circulating the written word their work is of insuperable importance and of undying value. The Communist Review has only attained its present importance and influence because it has behind it the ungrudging and loyal devotion of a band of the most enthusiastic and voluntary workers that ever came together to help a journal of the Labour movement.
WHEN the three Internationals met at Berlin last month to discuss the need for a United Front of the working class against the attack of capitalism, it was an important occasion for the whole Labour movement. It demonstrated to the whole world that the Communist International is no sectarian band of infantile theoreticians. The Second International had proclaimed to the world-wide masses that the Communists had broken the front of Labour, and were sowing dissension among the Socialist parties and were only noisy disruptionists. The reply of the Communist International to this was to test the sincerity of the Second International by demanding that an immediate and united struggle by all sections on behalf of the proletariat should be organised. As our report of the Berlin Conference shows, the Second International did not desire unity as a preliminary to organising an offensive on behalf of the masses; it wanted to turn the Conference into a discussion upon things that did not immediately concern the workers who are now retreating before the successful onslaughts of capital. The studied insolence of Vandervelde and the eloquent malice of MacDonald were the attempts of the Second International to wreck the Conference and to intensify disunity. The stinging, epigrammatic reply of Radek to Vandervelde and MacDonald is an object lesson to many of us, insofar as it demonstrated how Communists can slash the reformers while forcing them to line up in the struggle of the masses.
Radek’s reply was a vindication of the attitude taken up by the Communist Review. Some critics of the United Front and of Labour Party affiliation ask if it is consistent for the Communist Review to advocate unity of action while attacking Henderson, MacDonald, etc. What seems to confuse such critics is the simple fact that unity in action to help in the immediate struggles of the masses against Capitalism is not the same thing as a unity of organisations wherein all are dissolved into one group. There is nothing inconsistent in that splendid industrialist organ, The Worker, using its far-reaching influence to rally the engineers in order to bring victory to the A.E.U., while at the same time exposing the chicaneries of leaders like Brownlie and showing the limitations of the A.E.U. Its right to criticise Brownlie and the A.E.U. is abundantly increased for the simple reason that it is fighting alongside the A.E.U. in its struggle against the bosses. Not only is the right of criticism greater, but, what is more important, the effect of the criticism upon the engineering masses is a thousand times greater. Were the National Union of Railwaymen plunged into a big struggle to-morrow and if J. H. Thomas, by any chance, played the man, we would enthusiastically assist him, not for his sake, but because of the workers he represents. We are with the masses in all their struggles, political and industrial. We have time after time given proof of the fact that every fight of the workers is our fight. But there are some doctrinaires who are afraid to help the workers in their struggles because they are afraid to add to the power of false leaders. By assisting in such struggles these leaders are given an opportunity to reveal their treachery, and this enables us to denounce them, not from the coward’s castle of sectarian aloofness, but from the fighting ranks of the indignant masses. The formula babbling revolutionary who cannot assist in the mass struggle because of the present leaders is like the bumpkin who declared he couldn’t see London because of the buildings!
IT is the insistent demand of the Communist Party that, while joining in every political and industrial struggle of the masses, it must retain its independence as a Party. It is this demand that gives us the right to criticise and denounce traitors during any struggle. And it is this very demand that makes the reformists and moderates afraid of us even when we offer our assistance during any conflict. It is important to grasp this because the sentimentalists of the Vienna International look upon the United Front as a sort of glorified omnibus wherein the three Internationals may sit in blessed harmony and revel in each other’s company while all are journeying to some picnic. The United Front is not the sweet and blissful harmony of a Sunday school. This would seem to be the opinion of gentle souls like Mr. Wallhead and Mons. Lonquet. The United Front is unity of action in the struggle of the masses against the embittered attacks of the capitalist class. It would have been no breach of the United Front against capitalism had the British leaders of the Vienna International inside of the I.L.P. attacked Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald for his persistent advocacy of indemnities, or denounced Mr. P. Snowden for his reactionary enthusiasm for increased production. Mr. Wallhead knows that it was the Second International, of which his colleague MacDonald is the secretary, that refused to allow the Versailles Treaty and the question of indemnities from occupying a prominent place as one of the most urgent problems to be attacked by an international United Front struggle. Knowing this, his duty to the Vienna International, of which he is an executive member, and his duty as chairman of the I.L.P., which is supposed to stand pledged to oppose the indemnities as embodied in the Versailles Treaty, was to have denounced Mr. MacDonald’s indemnity policy. Considering in that the I.L.P. Conference was discussing problems of policy, and considering that the indemnity policy was such a burning question a few weeks ago at Berlin, when the three Internationals met, it was an obligation enforced upon Mr. Wallhead to have confronted Mr. MacDonald regarding his attitude towards the German indemnity. No doubt Mr. Wallhead will plead that unity was reached at the Berlin Conference. Berlin only decided upon unity in action against capitalism; it did not build up a wall to protect Imperialist indemnity mongers like Mr. MacDonald nor increased production reactionaries like Mr. Snowden.
Let us repeat the United Front is not an omnibus for harmonious sentimentalists. Radek made that clear in his speeches at the Berlin Conference, and so did the delegates of the Communist International in the declaration which they published at the moment when they signed the statement of the three Internationals.
ALREADY, from the standpoint of the Communist International, the wisdom of testing the Second International upon the policy of the United Front is revealing to the masses the reactionary character of the latter group. The Second International has refused, because it is afraid, to take its stand side by side with the Communist Party in the proletarian struggles in Germany. In order to carry out the policy agreed upon at Berlin, by the three Internationals, the United Front in Germany should be made up by the joint action of the Communists, Independents, and Majority Socialists. The Majority Socialists, of the Second Internationals, by refusing to fight along-side of the Communists, have compelled the Independents to take their place by the side of the Communists. This means that in Germany the Right is discredited, and that the Centre swerves to the Left.
As the class struggle develops it will be found that the Second International will openly identify itself with capitalist imperialism while the Centrist tendencies will be pressed ever towards the Communist International. The strategic value of the United Front tactics is that it will accelerate the development of these factors.
RUSSIA, with her practical realism, is the most inspiring and yet, withal, the most disconcerting element at the Genoa Conference. While these notes are being written the Russian delegation has shown the way to solve the international problems at present confronting the various national States. Take Lloyd George’s opening speech, which has been heralded as a most remarkable statement. What practical proposal did he make? None at all. It was and remains a superb piece of rhetorical eloquence, but it got nowhere and did not face international realities. The whole facade began to crack when the matter of fact Chicherin proposed universal disarmament. This simple touch of proletarian realism threatened to wreck the precious assembly of eloquent blatherskites, all of whom have been asking the heavens to observe their peaceful and brotherly intentions. In the midst of the rhetorical rantings of the imperialists regarding the need for international peace Soviet Russia interjected to say: “Very well, then, let us all disarm”! That one pointed fact punctured all the eloquent phantasies so gracefully blown by balloon specialists like Mr. Lloyd George. Small wonder the Conference was staggered, small wonder that France wanted it ended there and then, small wonder that the journalists of the various nations stampeded from the gallery—for here was a delegation of so-called diplomats who were innocent enough to imagine that when imperialist statesmen talked about peace that peace was actually meant! They had hoped for better things from Chicherin. They were of the opinion that he was going to be a real diplomat and play the game. Instead of acting like a diplomat he clumsily butts in and says if we must have peace then let us all disband our armies. In very truth these Bolsheviks can never learn, because they cannot appreciate the fine art of high politics and the intellectual game of international diplomacy. Any child knows that without armies and fleets nations cannot fight or go to war, but imperialist statesmen never solve problems in that simple manner. True to the breed of Horatio Bottomley and Winston Churchill, it is a much finer thing to talk of peace when every nation is armed to the teeth!