Source: The Communist Review, August 1922, Vol. 3, No. 4.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
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.
SO widespread is the economic chaos of Europe that it cannot do other than create revolutionary activity. The capitalists would very much like, if they could, to clear up the mess that their system is in—but they are afraid. In all their deliberations they are haunted by Soviet Russia. Their class instinct tells them that to help Russia is only one way of stabilising the centre of world revolution. This means that they are compelled to shut 180,000,000 potential purchasers out of the world’s market. By refusing to trade with Russia the capitalists are compelled to close down their mills and factories and throw millions of workers into the ranks of the unemployed to starve and to become, through desperation, splendid material for social revolution at home. History has caught capitalism in a cleft stick. Either it must assist the Soviet government to establish its industry and to feed and clothe its revolutionary millions, or it must close down its own industry and starve its own masses and thus goad them on to revolution. This is the pitiless dilemma of international capitalism. And it is Soviet Russia that holds the key position.
A well-organised and determined offensive by the whole international Labour movement could use Russia as a revolutionary lever to overthrow capitalism. That this is not being done, at present, is due to the baseness of the Vanderveldes, MacDonalds, and Hendersons. These betrayers of working class unity, by their dishonest and unscrupulous attacks upon Soviet Russia, place themselves in the vanguard of the world’s reactionaries. They are travelling the same road as that traversed by their one-time colleagues of the Second International—Millerand, Briand, Viviani in France, and Shakleton, Geo. Barnes, and Wm. Brace at home.
The leader and inspirer of the Second International’s attack on Soviet Russia, is Vandervelde, who signed the Treaty of Versailles as the most prominent Minister in the King of Belgium’s government. Vandervelde is the political tout of the Belgium financial speculators who sank so much capital in Russian railroads under the Tsar’s regime. Vandervelde’s success as a statesman has dazzled Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald, who simply stutters out what the brilliant Belgian minister and renegade boldly proclaims. It was Vandervelde who influenced Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald in his advocacy of indemnities, in his hatred of Russia, and upon the many other points which are in direct opposition to the policy of the rank-and-file workers of the I.L.P. Mr. J. R. MacDonald, being strong only in his vanity and personal ambition, is very easily impressed by powerful political personalities like Vandervelde and Mr. Arthur Henderson. It is easy to see that both of these moderate Labour statesmen are encouraging Mr. J. R. MacDonald to continue his opposition to the proletarian current in the I.L.P. until he succeeds in smashing that organisation.
Mr. Henderson is a cunning opponent of the I.L.P. He was no doubt pleased when he heard that Mr. Snowden had actually proposed, in the inner councils of the party, that it ought to disband. The I.L.P. is breaking down because of its lack of a coherent and disciplined policy. There are several contradictory currents at work all cutting across each other. There is the struggle between the Rights and the Centrists, i.e., between the Second and the Two-and-a-half Internationals; there is bitterness between the rapidly diminishing proletarian element which is unrelentingly opposed to the indemnity propaganda of Mr. J. R. MacDonald, to the increased production campaign of Mr. P. Snowden and to the scurrilous anti-Soviet conduct of both; and there is a most savage feud going on among the middle-class Parliamentary careerists, who are jealous of each other’s ambitions. It will require more than a revival campaign to rehabilitate the I.L.P., and it will certainly need something more drastic than taking a journalist from a Liberal organ, The Nation, and placing him in charge of the Labour Leader. We do not wish to under-estimate the ability of Mr. Brailsford, who is a much broader-minded Liberal than the recent editor of that paper.
Uncle Arthur, in his own best P.S.A., snake-in-the-grass manner, has done his work, of smashing up the I.L.P., very well.
THERE are indications, on all sides, that the ferment of revolution is again rising. Not only has there been a wonderful revolutionary revival in Germany, which can only be compared to 1918, but conditions there are almost similar to those that existed after Armistice Day. Small wonder that the British section of the Second International, the Labour Party, did its utmost to crush the demand of the Communists for affiliation. For in almost every country in Europe the influence of the Second International is rapidly waning. During the past month the French syndicalists indicated their intention of approaching the Red International of Labour Unions. The Communist parties of the Danubian and Balkan countries are not sufficiently studied in this country. These groups have been powerful enough to withstand the murderous White Terror which has been in existence for the past four years against them and their governments have now been compelled to grant several important concessions to the Communists.
In America there is a fierce struggle being waged by the miners and the railway shopmen. When the history of this fight is written it will then be shown to have been one of the most determined battles ever put up by the American proletariat. The workers in “God’s own country” are swiftly realising their international obligations, and we beg to draw our readers’ attention to the plan adopted by the American garment workers to assist Soviet Russia. (See page 215 in this month’s Review.)
In Ireland there is civil war. The crushing of the Republicans is a much bigger task than either the British press or Mr. Churchill’s assistant, Michael Collins, are prepared to admit. The military defeat of the Republicans will not end the agitation against the Griffiths-Collins middle-class government. This agitation will tend to become more of a revolutionary and proletarian character than it is at present under the leadership of Mr. de Valera. The conditions are rapidly coming into existence that Connolly foresaw; he contended that the real proletarian revolutionary movement would only rise after an Irish government was installed in Dublin. The political ferment of the masses would then be harnessed into a class struggle instead of a national struggle.
The Irish workers can expect little sympathy from politicians of the Giffiths’ type. Even during the great Transport Workers’ strike, which was led by Larkin and Connolly, Mr. Griffiths ranged himself against the strikers. Meanwhile, we wish to place on record the death of one of Ireland’s most famous fighters—Cathal Brugha.
After the Armistice the upholders of capitalism, from the avowed reactionaries to the moderate Labour leaders of the Second International, imagined that trade would rapidly develop. Events have justified every prophecy made by the Communist International in 1918. The ruling class has been dumbfounded at the terrific and destructive havoc that the war has created in the capitalist system. Instead of the consolidation of Europe there has been nothing but a continual economic collapse which has created a series of political upheavals. The economic crises of the great industrial States have forced them into acute political conflicts in various parts of the world. Not only are the relations between France and Britain much more critical than the “kept” press dare admit, but the Hague Conference may even yet produce some surprises so far as these two countries are concerned. While Europe is drifting towards chaos, dramatic happenings have occurred in China, where Wu Pei Lin, the military protege of American finance, has crushed the hireling of Japan, Chang-So-Lin; even the democratic vassal of Britain, Sun Yat Sen, is in flight.
China is thus experiencing great periods of agitation. While the press draws attention to the military struggles among the various military adventurers, who are in the pay of the big industrial States, very little notice is taken of the class struggle. Soviet Russia, the Bolshevik revolution, has created a profound impression in the minds of the workers in the Far East.
The position of capitalism is extremely precarious. No one is more conscious of this than the financiers and statesmen themselves. A courageous and well-led united front of the international Labour movement could smash capitalism at any moment; but the MacDonalds, Hodges, and the other traitors of the working class are more concerned in denouncing Moscow than attending to the things that are vitally necessary to the masses. While MacDonald creates schisms internationally, it is left for the polished arch-faker of the Miners’ Union, Hodges, to create dissension among the miners by an ungracious attack on Bob Smillie. We have criticised Bob Smillie in these pages on several occasions; we believe him to be courageous and honest; his real weaknesses are the result of his unfortunate contact with such I.L.P. types as Mr. J. R. MacDonald and Mr. P. Snowden.
From the international Labour standpoint, the British masses are the most apathetic at the present moment. The Rathenau murder has stimulated revolutionary enthusiasm in Germany, but even here the social democratic leaders of the Second International do not wish to lead the workers to a contest for real class power; they are content to exploit the ferment of revolution to protect their parliamentary democracy, which is manipulated by the financiers. (This is ably demonstrated in the article on the The Crisis in Germany on page 185 of this month’s Review.) The demonstrations of the past few weeks show that the masses are both able and anxious to break the power of the bourgeois, i.e., if only given a courageous lead. This lead will certainly not be given by the social democrats because their policy, as with all Second International leaders, is to hold back the masses until their anger and fervour has passed, and then to make a compromising agreement with the capitalists. The crises and revolutionary demonstrations in Germany are following each other very rapidly, and each new one is more violent than its predecessor, thus the historical conditions are rapidly coming into existence that will enable the Communists to lead the masses to the real struggle. The most significant thing about Germany is that the government, in yielding to the pressure of the masses, is forced to lean even more to the Left for support. Hence the social democrats themselves, in their desperate efforts to save the parliamentary and democratic republic without injuring the economic interests of Hugo Stinnes and Co., are indicating that the final struggle in Germany will be one between the Communist Left and the capitalist reactionary Right.
While events in Germany have been forcing the masses into revolutionary activity the same causes have driven the monarchists of Bavaria, Prussia, Hungary and Russia into desperate straits. These reactionaries understand that the moment the Communists in Europe capture power they will be speedily stamped out. They, therefore, feel that they must strike as soon as possible. Their activities are not the least part of the crises at present raging in Poland and the Balkan countries. It is no accident that Pilsudski—a moderate socialist who attacked Soviet Russia with French munitions in much the same way that J. R. MacDonald bespattered it with Morning Post mud—has been replaced by the more reactionary Korfanty, who is a ruthless White Army monarchist. While Korfanty is operating in Poland, his colleague, Wrangel—who led an army against Soviet Russia in 1920, and who was ably assisted by Mrs. Snowden’s dear Georgian socialists—has been attempting a coup d’etat in Bulgaria. Wrangel, who is a Russian monarchist, is very keen to make another onslaught, with French aid, upon the Soviet Republics. Before he does this he would like to depose the Bulgarian government, at present led by Stambolusky, which is not even reactionary enough for Wrangel. He would also like to begin an open White Terror against the Bulgarian Communists who have been able, so far, to keep him in his place. The Communist movement in Rumania, Bulgaria, Jugo-Slavia, and Greece is growing very powerful, and deserves very close attention by all studious readers of the Communist Review.