V. I. Lenin

We Have Paid Too Much

Source: The Communist Review, June 1922, Vol. 3, No. 2.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
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.

IMAGINE that the representatives of the Communists had to penetrate into a place in which the agents of the bourgeoisie carry on propaganda before a well attended meeting of workers. And imagine to yourself further that the bourgeoisie demands a high price for admission. If the price was not fixed beforehand, we would have to bargain in order not to overtax the funds of our Party. If we pay too much for admission, we will undoubtedly commit a mistake. But it is better to pay more, especially while we have not learnt to bargain, rather than deny ourselves the possibility of appearing before those workers who are so far in “the possession” of the reformists, that is, the most faithful friends of the bourgeoisie.

This comparison occurred to me when I read in to-day’s Pravda the telegraphic account of the conditions of the agreement arrived at by the three Internationals in Berlin. Our representatives, in my opinion, did not act rightly in agreeing to the two following conditions:—

(1) That the Soviet Government should not apply the death. sentence in the case of the 47 Social Revolutionaries on trial.

(2) That the Soviet Power should allow the representatives of the three Internationals to be present at the trial.

These two conditions are nothing less than a political compromise which the revolutionary proletariat has made to the reactionary bourgeoisie.

If anyone doubts the correctness of such a definition it is only necessary, in order to expose his political naivete, to put to him the question whether the English or any other modern Government would agree to allow the representatives of the three Internationals at the trial of the Irish rebels, or at the trials of the workers in the South African insurrection. Would the English or any other bourgeois Government agree not to apply the death sentence to its political enemies? We do not need to ponder much in order to grasp the following simple truth: That we have going on before us throughout the entire world, a struggle between the reactionary bourgeoisie and the revolutionary proletariat. In this case the Communists, representing one side in this struggle, have made concessions to the other side, that is, the reactionary bourgeoisie. Because everyone knows (except those who wish to conceal the truth), that the Social Revolutionaries shot at Communists and organised uprisings against them, acting practically and sometimes formally in one united front with the entire reactionary bourgeoisie.

The question now is: what concession has the international bourgeoisie given in return? There can only be one answer to that: None, whatsoever!

Only considerations which have for their purpose to blur over the pure truth of the class struggle, only those who throw dust into the eyes of the workers and the toiling masses, could attempt to blur this obvious truth. In the agreement signed in Berlin by the representatives of the three Internationals, we have made two political concessions to the international bourgeoisie, and we have got nothing in return.

The representatives of the Second and Two and a-half Internationals played the part of extortioners, wresting political concessions from the proletariat for the bourgeoisie, and absolutely refusing to carry out or attempt to wrest any concessions from the international bourgeoisie for the proletariat. Naturally this undoubted fact was well cloaked over by the cunning representatives of bourgeois diplomacy. (The bourgeoisie has taught its class representatives to be good diplomats during many decades.) But the attempt to cloud over the fact does not alter the fact. Directly or indirectly, the representatives of the Second and Two and a-half Internationals were linked with the international bourgeoisie. In this case the question is of minor importance. We do not accuse them of being in direct relation. That has nothing to do with the question, whether there was a direct relation or an indirect entanglement. What is important is that the Communists made a political concession to the international bourgeoisie under the pressure of the representatives of the Second and Two and a-half Internationals, and received nothing in return.

What is the conclusion? The conclusion is first of all that Comrades Radek and Bucharin and others who represented the Communist International have acted incorrectly.

Does it follow that we have to repudiate the agreement? No! I think that such a conclusion would be incorrect. We must not repudiate the signed agreement. The only thing we have to admit is that the bourgeois diplomats have proved themselves far more expert than ours. And in the future, if we do not agree beforehand upon the price of admission into the meeting place, we will have to bargain and manoeuvre more adroitly. We will have to make it our objective not to make any political concessions to the international bourgeoisie (no matter how artfully those concessions may be disguised), unless we receive in return concessions more or less equivalent on the part of the bourgeoisie with regard to Soviet Russia, or any other section of the international proletariat that struggles against the capitalists.

It is possible that the Italian Communists and a section of the French Communists and Syndicalists, who are opposed to the tactics of the united front, will on account of these considerations come to the conclusion that the tactic of the united front is proved false. This conclusion will be incorrect. If the Communist representatives have paid too much for admission into the building in which they have some chance, though not a big one, of addressing the workers who are up to now in the exclusive “possession” of the Reformists, we have only to try and rectify this mistake in future. But it would be a still greater mistake not to now accept the conditions, in order that we may penetrate into the well-guarded enclosure. The mistake of Comrades Radek, Bucharin and others is not great. Still less is it such by reason of the fact that the accounts of the Berlin Conference will encourage the enemies of Soviet Russia to perpetrate a few assassinations against certain personalities, because they know beforehand that they can shoot at Communists, with the assurance that Conferences like this one will interfere with the Communists shooting them. At any rate, we have made a breach in the closed building. And Comrade Radek at least succeeded to show before a section of the workers that the Second International refused to adopt the slogan of the repeal of the Versailles Treaty. The greatest mistake of the Italian Communists and a section of the French Communists and Syndicalists is that they are satisfied with the knowledge which they have. They are satisfied with what they know well—that the representatives of the Second and Two and a-half Internationals and also Messrs. Levi and Serrati and their ilk, are the most cunning representatives of the bourgeoisie and the promoters of its influence. But those people and those workers who know this firmly and understand its meaning, are undoubtedly the minority in Italy, England, America and France. The Communists must not stew in their own juice. They must learn so to act as to stop at no sacrifice, not to be afraid of mistakes in starting something new and difficult in order to penetrate into the closed building, where the influence of the representatives of the bourgeoisie is being disseminated among the workers. The Communists who do not want to understand and who do not want to learn this cannot expect to win the majority of the working class. In any event, they make it more difficult, and retard the winning of the majority. And this is an unpardonable thing to do for all Communists and all true followers of the Workers’ Revolution. The bourgeoisie, in the person of its diplomats, proved more cunning than the representatives of the Communist International. Such was the lesson of the Berlin Conference. We shall never forget this lesson. From this lesson we shall draw the necessary conclusions. The representatives of the Second and Two and a-half Internationals need a united front because they hope to weaken us by huge concessions on our part. They are trying to break into our Communist building without any pay. They hope through this tactic of the united front, to convince the workers of the righteousness of reformist and the falseness of revolutionary tactics. We need a united front because we hope to convince the workers to the contrary. The mistakes of our Communist representatives we will put on their shoulders and on the parties who made those mistakes. And we shall try to learn from these mistakes, and seek to avoid them in future. But we shall never allow the mistakes of our delegates to be put on the proletarian masses, which stand the whole world over under the pressure of the attacks of the capitalists. In order to help the masses in their struggle against capitalist oppression in order to help them to understand the “shrewd mechanism of the two fronts running through the entire international economy, the entire field of international politics, for that we adopted the tactic of the united front, and we will carry it out to the end.” — Pravda, 11th April, 1922.