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C L R James, World Revolution 1917-1936 The Rise and Fall of the Communist International

Saturday 7 March 2009

Chapter 1 MARXISM

WHAT THEN IS SOCIALISM ACCORDING TO THE PROPHETS? To answer this question we have to look back and not forward, at the origin of Socialism in the scientific sense, placing it in the particular phase of social evolution to which it belongs. For though it is to be attained by the will and energy of men, it will not be attained how and when men please. It is neither pious hope nor moral aspiration but a new form of society which will arise for one reason and one only, the unavoidable decay of the old.


This emergence of a new society from the old Marx and Engels deduced from wide and profound studies of economics and history, and their standard illustration of it was the emergence of fully-fledged Capitalist society out of the bankruptcy of the feudal regime in France. So much of their work was based on their analysis of the French Revolution, so emphatic were they as to the value of French history for the proper understanding of their ideas, the French revolution of 1789 acquires such historical significance with each succeeding year of post-war history, that we shall give here some idea of this revolution as they saw it in the early forties of last century, a view which has been at last accepted by official French historians of to-day. [1]

For Marx and Engels the basic division of society was into classes, groups of people who were distinguished from other groups by the fact that they earned their living and lived in a common way and therefore had common needs, aspirations and ideas. [2] These classes in the France of 1789 were the working masses, the landed aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie (peasants in the country, small masters and clerical employees in the towns). The outstanding feature of pre-revolutionary France was the breakdown of peasant economy, the basis of the whole structure. The peasants, still bound by the laws of serfdom, could not secure enough food. France suffered from chronic famine and the increasing dislocation of the finances and administration of the State. Nothing could improve the plight of the millions in the countryside and regenerate the country but the release of the peasantry from the feudal laws. But the State-power in France was held by the monarchy which, though it had deprived the feudal aristocracy of political power, yet did not have, or at least believed that it could not have, any support in the country except from the aristocracy and the land-owning clergy. The State-power, as always, sought to maintain the existing regime, with its anarchic economic conditions in the countryside, and its privileged castes, corporations, and other social and political anachronisms. Within the State, however, had developed in the course of the centuries a new class, the French bourgeoisie. The French bourgeoisie was the richest class in France; its wealth, created in trade and industry, was already greater than that of the aristocracy. The bourgeois had the experience and education which is acquired by those who organise and administer industrial and commercial wealth, and it had power over those large sections of the population whose livelihood was dependent upon them. Great as was their wealth and power they could see possibilities greater still. But for this, their first need was the creation of a free market for the increased distribution of their goods. This free market was hampered on all sides by the feudal organisation of France into tariff-surrounded provinces, the chronic disorder of production in the countryside, the incapacity of the peasant to feed himself, far less to buy, the parasitism of the aristocracy and clergy, whose extortions burdened the peasant and were wasted in luxurious and unproductive consumption. The bourgeois wanted to reorganise the State in accordance with the necessities of their industrial and commercial power, in which they justly saw the present, and still more the future, strength of the country. They had a model before them—England, where Cromwell had broken the feudal State-power a century before. In addition, their pride suffered from the insults to their dignity and the restrictions on their social and political activities, which the long tradition of the feudal State-power imposed upon all who were not members of the nobility or the clergy. These were the basic elements of a revolutionary change in society. On the one hand the recurrent break-down in production and the bankruptcy of the State-power; on the other a new class which, growing up within the old society, had already reached the stage when it was fully able to embark upon the business of freeing the productive forces from the old social and political fetters.

This struggle of economic forces for their full expansion was translated, as always, into a political struggle, the struggle for control of the State-power without which it is quite impossible to transform the organisation of society. It took, as always, a long and bloody revolution to accomplish this necessary change. This struggle against the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie quite genuinely inflated into the doctrines of the rights of man, only to recoil violently when the masses interpreted mankind to mean all men. The: great bourgeoisie who began the agitation grew frightened at the revolutionary vigour and energy of the petty-bourgeoisie which they had unwittingly unloosed; they became counterrevolutionary and were swept away by more mobile sections of their own class, driven by the pressure of ever broader and broader groups of people seeking to widen the economic and political formulae of the revolution so as to include themselves. It was the petty-bourgeoisie of the towns and the country who carried the revolution to its conclusion. Nor did they in their turn fail to crush the Paris masses, feeling their way to Communism a century before their time. The peasant having got his land came to a dead stop, and isolated the revolution in the towns. Liberty, equality and fraternity appeared to end in the Napoleonic dictatorship. But by the time Napoleon became Emperor the destruction of feudalism, the main business of the revolution, had been accomplished, and to this day France has never known a single famine. Napoleon instituted a modern system of legislation, which gave the French bourgeoisie full opportunity to develop the resources of the country. The irritating and hampering privileges of the aristocracy and the clergy were swept away. Careers were now open to those who had talent. However much Napoleon might disguise his bureaucracy as princes, dukes and counts, the outworn paraphernalia of the old feudal system, the revolution had accomplished its purpose. Louis XVIII might be restored to the throne by reactionary Europe in 1815, his nobles might mulct the treasury of millions, but the ancien regime was dead. No power on earth could restore it, for it had been replaced by an economic system and a social organisation that were vastly superior to the old. It is in that sense and that sense only that a new society is finally and irrevocably victorious. And whenever a Socialist society is established in the world its armies might conceivably (through act of God) be defeated by hostile powers, but the restoration of Capitalism is impossible.


Even before the revolutions of 1848 Marx and Engels had foretold a similar inevitable breakdown in the economic system of Capitalism. They based their prediction on the periodic recurrence of commercial crises, due to the ownership by the bourgeoisie of the means of production. In these crises "The productive forces at the disposal of the community no longer serve to foster bourgeois property relations. Having grown too powerful for these relations, they are hampered thereby; and when they overcome the obstacle, they spread disorder throughout bourgeois society and endanger the very existence of bourgeois property. The bourgeois system is no longer able to cope with the abundance of the wealth it creates. How does the bourgeoisie overcome these crises? On the one hand by the compulsory annihilation of a quantity of the productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets and the more thorough exploitation of old ones. With what results? The results are that the way is paved for more wide-spread and more disastrous crises and that the capacity for averting such crises is lessened." [3]

Bourgeois economists, having sneered at this analysis for over eighty years, have been frantically trying, since 1929, to find some more consoling explanation for the present encircling crisis which has apparently eased its coils for a moment, only (as the bourgeois economists themselves admit) in preparation for a still more merciless grip.

But the breakdown of Capitalism did not mean that Capitalism would shake at the knees and collapse of itself, any more than feudalism collapsed of itself. The economic disorder would be translated, as always, into political struggles and be resolved by the revolutionary victory of a new class.

The other element for the revolution was therefore a new class which, suffering intolerably from the difficulties created by the chaos in production, would be driven to seize the State-power and create the conditions for the new Socialist society, in the same way as the bourgeoisie had taken over the State-power and created the political conditions for the new Capitalist regime. This class Marx and Engels found in the proletariat. And as the bourgeoisie within feudal society had been consolidated and disciplined by the direction and organisation of wealth, in the same way the proletariat, organised in factories by the development of the Capitalist system of production, disciplined by the increasing discipline of large-scale Capitalist organisation, would be forced to combine industrially and ultimately politically by the increasing pressure upon them of the bourgeois system of production protected by the bourgeois State. In this way, and in this way only, could they find themselves fitted to assume the direction of affairs and to initiate the new society. And in the same way as bourgeois assumption of State-power had been caused ultimately by the breakdown, and resulted in the liquidation, of feudal property relations, so the proletarian assumption of State-power would be caused by and would result in the liquidation of bourgeois property relations. It was here, however, in the liquidation of bourgeois property that Marx and Engels saw the profound difference between all previous revolutionary changes in society and the change from Capitalism to Socialism. For whereas all previous revolutionary changes had merely substituted one ruling class for another, they claimed for this change that it would ultimately result in the abolition of all classes and the establishment of a society without exploitation over the whole of the world. On this important aspect of Marxist theory a lamentable confusion exists, not only in liberal bourgeois thought (which is not important, except so far as it misleads the workers), but also throughout the working-class movement, a confusion deliberately created by the rulers of the Soviet Union, the ideological leaders of the Third International. An understanding of this elementary piece of Marxism would riddle the delusion that there is no exploitation of man by man in Russia to-day. For to Marx and Engels the division of society into exploiters and exploited was not due to wickedness. "The separation of society into an exploiting and an exploited class, a ruling and an oppressed class, was the necessary consequence of the deficient and restricted development of production in former times. So long as the total social labour only yields a produce which but slightly exceeds that barely necessary for the existence of all; so long, therefore, as labour engages all or almost all the time of the great majority of the members of society—so long, of necessity, this society is divided into classes. Side by side with the great majority, exclusively bond slaves to labour, arises a class freed from directly productive labour, which looks after the general affairs of society; the direction of labour, State business, law, science, art, etc. It is, therefore, the law of division of labour that lies at the basis of the division into classes. But this does not prevent this division into classes from being carried out by means of violence and robbery, trickery and fraud. It does not prevent the ruling class, once having the upper hand, from consolidating its power at the expense of the working-class, from turning their social leadership into an intensified exploitation of the masses.

"But if, upon this showing, division into classes has a certain historical justification, it has this only for a given period, only under given social conditions. It was based upon the insufficiency of production. It will be swept away by the complete development of modern productive forces. And, in fact, the abolition of classes in society presupposes a degree of historical evolution, at which the existence, not simply of this or that particular ruling class, but of any ruling class at all, and, therefore, the existence of class distinction itself has become an obsolete anachronism. It presupposes, therefore, the development of production carried out to a degree at which appropriation of the means of production and of the products, and, with this, of political domination, of the monopoly of culture, and of intellectual leadership by a particular class of society, has become not only superfluous, but economically, politically, intellectually a hindrance to development." [4]

For Marx and Engels, collective ownership did not mean Socialism. Everything depended on the development of the productive forces which this collective ownership would make possible; and even in the world of 1848 the productive forces necessary for such a development were already international. As they wrote in the Communist Manifesto: "By the exploitation of the world market, the bourgeoisie has given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every land. To the despair of the reactionaries, it has deprived industry of its national foundation. Of the old-established national industries, some have already been destroyed and others are day by day undergoing destruction. They are dislodged by now industries, whose introduction is becoming a matter of life and death for all civilised nations: by industries which no longer depend upon the homeland for their raw materials, but draw these from the remotest spots; and by industries whose products are consumed, not only in the country of manufacture, but the wide world over. Instead of the old wants, satisfied by the products of native industry, new wants appear, wants which can only be satisfied by the products of distant lands and unfamiliar climes. The old local and national self-sufficiency and isolation are replaced by a system of universal intercourse, of all-round interdependence of the nations.

"By rapidly improving the means of production and by enormously facilitating communication, the bourgeoisie drags all the nations, even the most barbarian, into the orbit of civilisation. ... Moreover, just as it has made the country dependent on the town, so it has made the barbarian and semi-barbarian nations dependent upon the civilised nations, the peasant peoples upon the industrial peoples, the East upon the West." In this atmosphere nationalism could not breathe.

It was the all-round interdependence of Capitalist production which was always the basis of the thought of Marx and Engels. They did not proclaim the international Socialist revolution on the humanitarian principle of the more the merrier. With them it was sheer economic necessity. For ultimately, without the collective ownership of these means of production, it would be impossible to have that abundance of products without which the natural division of society into exploiters and exploited would remain. For thousands of years educated men had solaced themselves with dreams of a Communist society, but the realistic conceptions of scientific Socialism could only arise when the international forces of production had made possible the abundance of commodities. For Marx and Engels, therefore, basing their whole structure on the economic interdependence of the modern world and the consequent political ties, the mere idea of a national Socialism would have been a pernicious absurdity, to be driven out of Socialist ideology with whips and scorpions back into its natural home, the camp of the radical petty-bourgeoisie. "Proletarians of all lands, unite" was no idealistic slogan, but the political expression of economic need. They would not have raised it otherwise.


From this economic basis of society and its division into classes,with the Socialist revolution as their aim, they judged all political phenomena, from the future Socialist society to the activities of single individuals. They defined with exactness the role of individuals in history. They knew how much the quality of individual genius counts in social struggles, but they knew that in politics an individual is more important for what he represents than for what he is. They would not have been deceived first by Sir John Simon, and then by Sir Samuel Hoare, and then once more by Anthony Eden. [5] They claimed that both social and political types were created by the particular section of society which they served, and the portraits they drew of the typical political figures of their own day are as good a testimony as any of the fundamental soundness of their materialistic conception of history. To us who have known the Russian Mensheviks, as well as Leon Blum, Otto Bauer, Fritz Adler, Waiter Citrine, Herbert Morrison it comes almost as a shock to know that Marx knew and understood them quite well. "But the democrat, because he represents the petty bourgeoisie—a transitional class in which the interests of two classes art: simultaneously blunted—arrogates to himself a position of superiority to class conflicts. Democrats admit that they are faced by a privileged class, but they think that they themselves in conjunction with all the rest of the nation, constitute the ’people.’ What they represent, is the right of the people; what interests them, is the popular interest. Consequently, when a struggle is impending, they see no reason for studying the interests and attitudes of the various classes, or for carefully reckoning up the forces at their own disposal. They need merely give the signal, and the people (whose resources are inexhaustible) will fall upon the oppressors. If it should turn out that their interests are inadequate and that their supposed power is impotent, they ascribe their defeat to the activities of pernicious sophists who have spread disunion and have split up the indivisible people into a number of mutually hostile factions; or the army, they say, was so brutalised and misguided that it could not perceive the pure aims of democracy to be its own true advantage; or the whole plan was wrecked by some error of detail; or, on this occasion, an unforeseen accident ruined the scheme. Whatever happens, the democrat comes forth unspotted after the most shameful defeat, just as he was a blameless innocent before he entered the battle; defeat merely fortifies his conviction of ultimate victory, there is no reason why he and his party should abandon their old outlook, for nothing more is requisite than that circumstances should come to their aid." [6]

Although in their polemical writing Marx and Engels were violently abusive, they did not think that all men were selfish hypocrites, that the petty-bourgeois democrat, for instance, was always trying to enforce his own selfish class interest. He genuinely believed that the special conditions requisite for his own liberation were likewise the conditions requisite for the salvation of modern society. In no other way could society be saved and the class war averted. Nor were we to think that democratic deputies are all shop-keepers [7] or enthusiastic champions of the small shop-keeper class. In culture and by individual status they might be the opposite of members of the shop-keeper class, but intellectually they had failed to transcend the limitations which naturally were imposed upon the petty-bourgeois by the conditions of petty-bourgeois existence. Consequently in the theoretical field they were impelled towards the same aspirations and solutions as those towards which in practical life the petty-bourgeois was impelled by material interest and social position. Even the bourgeois and aristocrat, ruthless and deceitful as they might be, were not crudely and without illusion merely seeking their own material interests. Speaking of the rivalry between capital and landed property which disguised itself as support on the one hand of the House of Orleans and on the other of the House of Bourbon, Marx poses and answers this question: "They were hound by old memories, personal enmities, hopes and fears, prejudices and illusions, sympathies and antipathies, by convictions and articles of faith and principles? Who denies it? Upon the different forms of property, upon the social conditions of existence, as foundation, there is built a superstructure of diversified and characteristic sentiments, illusions, habits of thought, and outlooks on life in general. The class as a whole creates and shapes them out of its material foundation, and out of the corresponding social relationships. The individual, in whom they arise through tradition and education, may fancy them to be the true determinants, the real origin, of his activities." And of the British Tories in 1832: "Thus the British Tories believed for generations that they were defenders of the monarchy, the Church, and the beauties of the venerable English constitution—until in the day of danger, there was wrung from them the admission that what they really worshipped was land-rent." [8]

Whatever the vagaries of individual persons yet the actions of the class as a whole and those who represented it would be governed ultimately by its material interests.

MARX’S TACTICS, 1850-1936

Marx and Engels were not theoreticians only, but active revolutionists and it was this basic knowledge reinforced by close observation which made them the masters of political tactics that they were. Lenin did not discover—he merely adapted, applied and developed.

The instructions Marx wrote for the revolutionaries in Germany in 1850 retain all their validity to-day, and were the tactical basis of the Third International. In Germany, as in France of 1789, the classes were the feudal aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The democratic petty-bourgeoisie in those far-off days might be stirred into revolutionary activity, but their chief desire was always to finish with the revolution as soon as they could see a possibility of satisfying the demands of the democracy. They might fight side by side with the proletariat against the feudal aristocracy, but it was inevitable that sooner or later they would turn and crush the proletariat of whom they were more afraid than of the bourgeoisie.

The workers were, therefore, to be independently organised in groups and centralised under a directorship functioning from the central point of the movement. [9] The quick organisation of provincial connections of the workers’ groups was one of the most important points in the strength and development of the workers’ party. The workers from the very first hour of their victory must arm and organise themselves. The workers’ candidates for the revolutionary assembly were to be put up in opposition to those of the democratic party; even in those localities where there was no prospect of winning, the workers must put up their own candidates in order to preserve their own independence, to calculate their own strength, and to be in a position to bring their own revolutionary attitude and party straightway before the public mind. Above all, the revolutionary workers were to struggle to break the influence of the democracy upon the masses of the workers. They were not to listen to the phrases of the democrats that the democratic party would be split because of the independent action of the workers, and that this would make possible the victory of the reaction. Wherever such phrases were used the final result would be the swindling of the proletariat. Both during the struggle and after it, the workers at every opportunity were to put up their own demands in contradistinction to the demands put forward by the bourgeois democrats. This wisdom remains. It was the neglect of these directives that ruined the Chinese Revolution of yesterday, threatens the Spanish revolution of to-day, and if persisted in will ruin the French Revolution of to-morrow.

But Marx never envisaged the simultaneous victory of the proletariat in every country in the world or in every advanced country. The uneven development of Capitalism in various countries meant inevitably the uneven development of the proletariat, and for this and other historical reasons a different correlation of class forces in each country. He therefore detailed to the German proletariat the likely demands of the German petty-bourgeoisie and the demands which the revolutionary party should put up in opposition. In Germany the petty-bourgeois democratic party in 1850 was extremely powerful. The German proletariat might not be able to establish the proletarian State-power. Yet they were to drive the democratic revolution as far forward as possible. And even if they were not able to come to power and carry through their own class interests, yet they had the certainty that such success as they might win would be a signal for the immediate and complete victory of the more highly developed proletariat in France and would be very much helped by it. Proletarians of the world, unite. The German workers, by forming their own party as early as possible and by not permitting themselves to be fooled as to the necessity for the independent organisation of the proletarian party, would have accomplished the greatest part of the final victory. There would be another revolution in Germany, and the revolutionary movement would spread all over Europe. The revolution would continue until all the propertied classes were more or less dispossessed, until the governmental power was acquired by the proletariat and the association of proletarians was achieved, not only in one country, but in all important countries of the world, thus ending the competition of the proletariat in these countries. But, and this is what is most significant for us to-day, even with the State-power in their hands in all the advanced countries of Europe, the proletariat would continue to make revolutionary changes in the economic organisation of society until the most important productive forces were socialised. For it was only in this way that it was possible to attain that immense development of production that would destroy private property as an institution and establish the classless socialist society. "Their battle-cry must always be—the Permanent Revolution."

The history of the last seventy-five years, and particularly the history of the last twenty, has shown, and the prospects of the coming twenty-five years will show, that in comprehensive analysis and constructive thought these two men, neither yet thirty-five, had made the greatest of all contributions to the theory and practice of human society. They were fortunate in their age. They owed their insight to the fact that they lived in Europe just at the time when the rapid development of Capitalism and its social and political consequences could be seen more easily than in its more extended development in England. They had seen in France the first great battle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie; they had the training and ability to disentangle the permanent from the transitory, the creative imagination to plunge boldly into the future, the scientific scrupulousness and immense capacity for labour which tested every hypothesis. They were not dreamers but the most sober and realistic of men. Revolution was the only way, and boldly and without reservation they advocated the permanent revolution. But they warned that revolution was not to be played with. It was "a calculus with very indefinite magnitudes the value of which may change every day; the forces opposed to you have all the advantage of organisation, discipline, and habitual authority; unless you bring strong odds against them you are defeated and ruined. Secondly, the insurrectionary career once entered upon, act with the greatest determination...."

They were masters of retreat as well as of attack. In 1850, six months after Marx had sent the instructions which we have detailed above, it became clear that the industrial crisis was over and a period of prosperity had begun. Marx said that under these circumstances a real revolution was unthinkable, and was furiously angry with those who continued to toy with the idea at such a time. He ordered a drastic change of tactics; his party settled down to ordinary constitutional agitation, and he began the long years of labour on Das Kapital. In 1871 he was against the insurrection of the Paris Commune because he thought it would fail, though he accepted the fact and defended the Communards. Finally he and Engels, although they maintained their revolutionary elan and enthusiasm to the end, never underestimated the colossal difficulties of the Permanent Revolution. They miscalculated in time, that was all. But from the first they knew the stupendous task that faced the revolutionaries. In 1851 Marx wrote that the revolutions of the eighteenth century were child’s play compared with the social revolutions which faced the nineteenth century proletariat. He foresaw many many attempts and many many failures. The bourgeois revolutions went quickly from success to success, but they were short-lived. The proletarian revolutions, said Marx, were self-critical. They again and again stopped short in their progress, retraced their steps in order to make a fresh start. They were pitilessly scornful of the half measures, of the weaknesses, the futilities of their preliminary essays. It seemed as if they had overthrown their adversaries only in order that these might draw renewed strength from contact with the earth and return to the battle like giants refreshed. Again and again they shrank back appalled before the vague immensity of their own aims. But at long last they reached the situation whence retreat was impossible and where the circumstances clamoured in chorus—

Hic Rhodus, hic salta! [10]

We have seen between 1919 and to-day the hesitations of the workers, the half-measures, the shrinking back before the immensity of the task before them. But the moment approaches when for many of the working-classes in Europe retreat will be impossible, and they will bring Capitalism to the ground, not because Marxists tell them to, but because life offers no other way. And if Marx and Engels in the middle of the nineteenth century were too optimistic over the possibilities of proletarian revolution, they also necessarily envisaged a long period in which proletarian States would wage war against reaction. That period, happily, is not likely to be as protracted as it seemed in 1850; 1918-20 showed the speed with which a revolutionary movement could spread in the conditions of the modern world. To-day the proletariat of Belgium follows the French proletariat almost overnight in a nation-wide strike movement, and Portuguese reaction struggles to dam the overflow from Spain. We may well see, especially after the universal ruin and destruction of the coming war, a revolutionary movement which, beginning in one of the great European cities, in the course of a few short months, will sweep the imperialist bourgeoisie out of power, not only in every country in Europe, but in India, China, Egypt and South Africa. With an organised International revolutionary Socialism could face the future without dismay. The task of rebuilding such an international has been begun. It is a race with time. For its original purpose, the emancipation of the proletariat, the Third International, despite the sincerity and devotion of many of the rank-and-file, is already useless. The betrayal on the major question of war could only have been reached by a degeneration which has since been intensified. Tested and amplified by the blood of millions and by the labours of some of the finest of modern minds, the ideas and principles outlined above have almost completely vanished from the theory and practice of the Third International. So far as individuals personify movements, Trotsky personifies the principles of Marxism, Stalin the degradation of the Third International. For years the world believed that Stalin, master of Russia, wielder of greater power than any living man, had triumphed. Trotsky seemed an egoistic exile, employing an embittered energy in futile attacks on a rival successful in the struggle for power. Then suddenly in the summer of 1936 the June strikes in France, the Spanish Revolution, and finally the trial and Trotskyist purge in Russia, showed the undying vigour of revolutionary Socialism and nowhere so much as in Russia where its greatest enemy reigned. The bourgeois world realises day by day that the banner of world revolution has passed from the Third International of Stalin to the Fourth International of Trotsky, and—a gigantic irony—the rulers of the Workers’ State and its satellites in the Third International are more eager than the bourgeois to crush the pioneers of the resurgent revolution.


[1] Notably Mathiez.

[2]Is it superfluous to state this to-day? The French Communist Party summons the whole French "nation" to struggle against "two hundred families;" such is the Marxism of the most powerful section of the Third International. If it were a question of two hundred families the whole matter could be settled any morning between nine and eleven.

[3] The Communist Manifesto.

[4] Socialism, Utopian and Scientific. F. Engels. Chicago, Kerr & Co., 1917. pp. 129-130. This book is an abridgement of the more famous Anti-During. Does any except the most fanatical "communist" claim that such a state of affairs exists in Russia to-day?

[5] In regard to the League of Nations.

[6] The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, by Karl Marx.

[7]The Social Democrat to-day calls himself a Socialist and preacher Socialism. But, as we shall see, his Socialism is essentially the adaptation of Socialist ideas to the needs of the petty-bourgeoisie, to whom by the conditions of his life he is far more closely allied than the majority of the workers he claims to represent.

[8] The Eighteenth Brumaire. This is still an indispensable book for the student of any period of history.

[9]Marx made this a firm principle only after noting that the advanced workers in Germany during the revolution of 1848 had insisted on their own independent organizations. As always he generalized from experience.

[10] The Eighteenth Brumaire.


THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL, THE PRECURSOR OF THE THIRD, was formed in 1864. Marx had nothing to do with its actual foundation, but was invited to assist and wrote the original drafts of both the inaugural manifesto and the constitution.


So heterogeneous was the composition of the International that Marx could not state with his usual clarity the programme and tactics of the Permanent Revolution. Yet the following contains his essential ideas and was transferred bodily by Lenin to the statutes of the Third International:

"That the economical emancipation of the working classes is therefore the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means; "That all efforts aiming at that great end have hitherto failed from the want of solidarity between the manifold divisions of labour in each country, and from the absence of a fraternal bond of union between the working classes of different countries; "That the emancipation of labour is neither a local nor a national, but a social problem, embracing all countries in which modern society exists, and depending for its solution on the concurrence, practical and theoretical, of the most advanced countries."

The defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871 was a deathblow to the First International, but it should be noted that one of the immediate causes of its collapse was the conflict between Bakunin, the anarchist, and the strong central control of the General Council, dominated first by Marx and in its last years by Engels. These two devoted themselves with equal interest and energy to whatever national section seemed most important for the movement as a whole. Nationalism of any sort was quite foreign to them. In 1848 the centre of the international working-class movement was for them France, and remained so until 1870. With the defeat of the Paris Commune they saw that the leadership of the working-class struggle had now passed to Germany, which henceforth became the centre of their activities. As in France, after the destruction by the revolution of the provincial restrictions to trade, so the national unity of the German states which resulted from the Franco-Prussian War widened the opportunities of German Capitalism. The reparations tribute extracted from France, the mineral resources of Alsace-Lorraine, were the dynamic forces in this larger arena, and with the growth of German Capitalism followed inevitably the development of the Labour movement in Germany. There was much theoretical confusion in the German party between the years 1870 and 1880, but the party had fought against the Franco-Prussian war in true revolutionary fashion. Chiefly through the untiring efforts of Engels, Marxism in time became the prevailing doctrine of the German Social Democratic Party. The leaders of the German party, Bernstein, Liebknecht, Bebel, Kautsky, were in close and constant touch with Marx and Engels; they taught the irreconcilabiiity of the struggle between classes, and that the State was merely the executive committee of the ruling class, foretold the inevitable collapse of Capitalism, and preached the necessity of the working-class seizing the State-power by armed insurrection. But, there being no immediate prospect of a revolutionary crisis, with the full agreement of Marx and Engels the German party organised itself to wrest immediate concessions from German Capitalism through trade unions and legal political activity. In the course of these struggles the workers would steel themselves for the revolutionary seizure of power.

But despite the recurrent crises the decades that followed the Franco-Prussian War saw a steady expansion of European Capitalism. Revolution seemed more and more remote. The betterment of working conditions, increases in wages, could be won. There was the immediate struggle for full political rights under the constitution. As the years went by Marx and Engels could see that the prosperity of German Capitalism and the concessions which the organised workers could win from their masters were corrupting sections of the German leadership. They used the Marxian terminology but more and more they were slipping into purely parliamentary methods, and, what was worse, purely parliamentary aims. Universal suffrage and the secret ballot gradually superseded the revolution as the means of working-class emancipation. In 1883 Bismarck’s anti-Socialist laws drove the most revolutionary leaders into exile and strengthened the hold of the parliamentarians on the workers. The corruption of the movement by these leaders was so great that Engels seriously considered a split by the revolutionary section. Perhaps if Marx had been alive the split would have taken place. But Marx had died in 1883, and in 1887 Engels was still hopeful, at times even confident, that these tendencies would be counteracted by the "wonderful commonsense" of the German workers who had stood so firm and fought so splendidly against Bismarck’s repression. But he was wrong. After his death in 1895 bureaucratic corruption conquered in every important Labour movement in Europe, except the Russian, and there it was defeated only after a hard struggle. Marx and Engels in full vigour could have assisted the opposition to organise itself, given it theoretical clarity and helped it to lay such a basis that it could have rallied the most advanced elements to itself and thus been ready for the next great crisis of Capitalism the war of 1914. More they could not have done, for the roots of the change lay deep in the economic developments of the time.


The end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century saw European Capitalism making a last attempt to solve its difficulties by more intense exploitation of the old markets and a piratical seizure of the hitherto neglected continent of Africa. Capitalist prosperity increased and side by side with the expansion of trade and industry went the growth of the European Labour movement. In all the great European countries, particularly in Britain, the Labour movement became the happy hunting-ground for a rising crowd of Trade Union officials, parliamentarians, municipal counsellors, election agents, organisers, journalists, printers, publishers, a new caste in society which, on the basis of the successful struggle for better wages and more Labour representation in parliament, controlled the organised Labour movement. The growth of imperialism, the spread of trade, the accumulation of super-profits, strengthened their position. It gave them support from below–in a thin stratum of well-paid and privileged workers who had no quarrel with Capitalism. It gave them support from above, in the radical sections of the increasing petty-bourgeoisie of the cities, notably the intelligentsia, itself a product, as an administrative necessity, of the world-wide expansion of Capitalism. The petty-bourgeois intellectuals supplied the new Socialist ideology–the inevitability of gradualism, the commonsense of municipal trading–Socialism without tears. These ideas, [1] perfectly adapted to the petty-bourgeois movement of their authors, permeated through the bureaucracy and its apparatus into the working-class movement. Basing itself, as all ideas except those of revolutionary Socialism are based, upon the inevitable growth of national Capitalism, this Socialism was national in origin and outlook. Such internationalism as it professed was merely a quixotic gesture having no roots in economics and therefore none in politics, doomed to perish at the first breath of the storm. That this decline from Marxism into national Socialism was no accident but an inevitable phase can be seen from the course followed by the Labour movement in Germany after the death of Engels. Even before Engels died he had had fierce quarrels with the leaders of the German Social Democracy for suppressing the revolutionary passages in his last writings. Now with the old man out of the way Bernstein in 1897 began openly to revise Marxism. By 1899 he had discarded the theory of the class-struggle and the inevitable breakdown of Capitalism, and substituted instead collaboration with the democratic and progressive bourgeoisie, [2] and the gradual growing-over of Capitalism into Socialism. Kautsky and others of the German party led the rejection of this adulteration, but in a lukewarm fashion that showed how near they already were to Bernstein. 1914 and the years of post-war history were to show that this Revisionism was identical with Fabianism. And it is another remarkable testimony to the influence of economic and social environment on men, even men above the average of intelligence and education, that Sidney Webb of the Oxford tradition and the English civil service and Kautsky, disciple and companion of Marx and Engels, the greatest revolutionaries in history, should have arrived at identical conclusions which were demonstrably false.

Yet Marx’s internationalism remained on the lips of the Social Democratic bureaucrats. They organised themselves into the Second International in 1889. But so tenacious were they of their own national independence that it was only in 1900 that they formed a central bureau, and in reality each section always pursued its own policy. In 1904 at the Amsterdam Congress the Second International condemned Revisionism, yet continued to act as if the future of Capitalism were assured and each working class in the fullness of time would win a majority at the polls and institute the Socialist order. [3]

And yet, before their very eyes, the system was showing unmistakable signs of the great fissures into which peer fearsomely all the Capitalist world to-day. Side by side with the superficial prosperity went, as Marx had foretold, the development of Capitalism into monopoly and the enlargement of the scale of competition. The export of capital was industrialising the native populations of foreign countries, and the class-struggle was sharpening steadily all over the world. In the years before the war a series of great strikes in Britain presaged the great conflicts of our own day. Over all, as even the Second International stated in its high-sounding but empty resolutions, the increasing rivalry of national Capitalisms was leading steadily to the most gigantic war in history. But all this had no ultimate significance for the parliamentarians and Trade Union bureaucracy, with their eyes glued on seats, increase of wages, the extension of the party press and all the other day-to-day activities of the organisation, which coincided so admirably with their struggles for personal advancement. It was not a question of intellectual ability or moral calibre. There were many J. H. Thomases and Ramsay MacDonalds among them, and few men of this age were personally superior to Jean Jaures. Yet all went the same road. The leaders of great parties judge history from the necessities of their organisations and not their organisations from the necessities of history.

The disintegration of Capitalism did find some expression in dissenting political groupings within each national section. In Britain, for example, the English Social Democratic Federation, later the British Socialist Party, professed Marx’s doctrines. Keir Hardie, of the Independent Labour Party, opposed the Liberal-Labour tendencies of the British working-class leaders, but paid little attention to theory and never stiffened his party with the doctrines of scientific Socialism. Inside the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg fought the internationalism in phrase and Revisionism in action of Kautsky and Bernstein. But the revolutionary wings were weak. Even in Germany they were held in check by the organisational strength and discipline of the German party. The revolutionary leaders feared the isolation which would follow a split. Few, if any of them, could have forseen how corrupt the leadership was. In every great European country except one, 1914 found them helpless before the Revisionists.

We have devoted an apparently disproportionate amount of time to these two tendencies in the labour movement—Marxism and Revisionism, international and national Socialism. The disproportion is only apparent. With the formation of the Third International and the adhesion to it of the revolutionary internationalists, Revisionism became openly and without shame the ruling doctrine of the Second International. But in 1924 Revisionism made its appearance in the Russian Bolshevik Party, for similar reasons to its appearance in the Second International and with the identical results. The Third International and the Russian Bolshevik party is to-day completely revisionist. And yet it was in the Bolshevik Party that unrevised Marxism was kept alive during the years when Revisionism was triumphant all over Europe. The Russian Bolshevik Party gave its stamp to the Third International. The strength of the International was the strength of the Bolshevik Party, but the weakness of that party was the weakness of the International also.


But for Tsarist reaction the war would have found only a few sects in possession of Marxism, and the working-class movement, even though it was certain to find its way in the end, might have floundered for years.

Throughout the nineteenth century the Tsarist feudal autocracy had ruled Russia, a Government that even at the end of the nineteenth century was in many respects more backward than the monarchy which the French Revolution had overthrown a hundred years before. Despite the execration of democratic Europe (hypocritical as far as the financiers and rulers were concerned) Tsarism remained, and would continue to remain until the development of the forces of production had created the social and political forces which would overthrow it and take its place. Through the centuries the peasants had tried in vain to rid themselves of the burden of serfdom. The historical development of Europe and Russia had resulted in the weakness of Russian industry, and the corresponding weakness of the towns. The peasantry, from the geographical conditions of its existence and the intellectual backwardness which this entails, the constant differentiation between its members, is unable to create an effective political party of its own, and the agrarian revolution which lacks the political guidance and support of the towns cannot succeed. By 1861 the defeat in the Crimean War and the increasing pressure of the peasantry warned Tsarism of the necessity of ameliorating the conditions in the countryside. But though serfdom was abolished the peasant was cheated in favour of the landlord, with the result that the agrarian situation was merely temporarily relieved, and, as in pre-1789 France, periodical famines undermined the fabric of the Russian State.

Court conspiracies had at critical moments substituted one Tsar for another more suitable to the nobility. The system remained. The intellectuals who sought the overthrow of Tsarism without the backing of a mass movement slipped, as always, into the morass of terrorism. It was European capital, inevitably seeking new markets and as inevitably creating the means of its own destruction, which provided the basis for the revolutionary Marxist party in Russia, and thereby paved the way for the first great breach in the Capitalist system. Into this predominantly feudal country came the surplus of Western capital, constructing modern large-scale industry with its concomitant organisation of the proletariat and impoverishment of the peasantry, drawing Russia into that relentless see-saw of boom and crisis which was already undermining the far more stable Capitalisms of the west.

The soil was fruitful for Marxism. In 1883 was formed the Emancipation of Labour Group, composed of Russian intellectuals in exile with Plekhanov as its leading figure. In 1889 Plekhanov paid a special visit to London to see Engels and to seek his advice on the new developments in Russia. At the inaugural congress of the Second International in 1889 Plekhanov made his famous pronouncement that the revolutionary movement in Russia could triumph only as a revolutionary movement of the working class. "There is not, nor can there be, any other way." Even to the Liberal bourgeoisie in Russia, stifled economically and politically by Tsarism, Marxism came as a revelation. They could see Marx’s analysis of Capitalism being enacted before their very eyes. But these gentlemen no sooner touched Marxism than, as is their way, they expelled from it all that was revolutionary and made it "legal"; the backward workers of Russia should confine themselves to economic struggle, and in politics support the Liberal bourgeoisie. This was the theoretical origin of the First Russian variant of Revisionism-Economism. Between 1890 and 1900 Capitalism in Russia developed at a furious rate. The production of pig iron increased by 220 per cent, iron ore by 272 per cent, oil by 179 per cent. The organisation of industry, being new, was on the largest modern scale giving the workers, though proportionately few, enormous power in action. The number of workers in industry was 1,424,000 in 1890. It was 2,098,000 in 1897. There were 17,000 on strike in 1894, 48,000 in 1895, 67,000 in 1896, 102,000 in 1897, 87,000 in 1898, 130,000 in 1899. In this period of Capitalist expansion the workers could win concessions, for it paid the employers to maintain production. But in 1900 the European crisis struck Russia. The decline in production threw the whole of Russian economy into disorder, the increase of unemployed killed the strike movement. Both workmen and the Liberal bourgeoisie were brought sharply up against the burden that the country carried in the mediaeval Tsarist Government. In 1900, 1901 and 1902 the influence of Economism declined, the students began to take to the streets in political demonstrations, and the striking workers joined them. In November, 1902, at Rostov-on-Don a great economic strike ended as a political strike, and for days the organised workers called for the revolutionary overthrow of the Government. In the middle of 1903 in Baku, Tiflis, Odessa, all the towns of the Ukraine and Trans-Caucasia, a quarter of a million workers took part in political strikes which again demanded the revolutionary overthrow of the Government. Even the bourgeois intellectuals could see the coming revolution.

Lenin was a genius, but it was this environment which enabled him to read Marxism and accept it so thoroughly that he could apply its principles to Russia and the rest of the world with the confidence and sureness which made him the greatest political leader in history. Social Democratic propaganda groups sprang up in the large towns, at first small circles, then reaching out to make contact with the masses. In 1900 some of them coalesced, and sent Lenin abroad to found a paper.


By 1903 his ideas were already clear. The revolution was inevitable. The masses would be inexorably driven to take the solution of Russia’s problems into their own hands. But in the modern world the successful accomplishment of the revolution was essentially the work of an organisation, a revolutionary political party which would lead the masses. He distinguished three stages in the perspective–the first when insurrection was a theoretical objective, the second when the political party organised the insurrection, and the third when the party issued the call for insurrection. Each of these merged into the other, and their demarcation would depend on historical factors, some of which could be foretold, others recognised, proclaimed and acted upon. It was the party which would do these things. "Give us an organisation of revolutionaries and we will overturn Russia." This was, and remains, his greatest contribution to the practice of Marxism. The party’s first duty was to give theoretical direction, to clarify. "No revolutionary theory, no revolutionary practice." Only that party could lead the revolution which was guided by an advanced political theory-Marxism; and for Lenin Marxism embraced every phase of human thought. The ideas of any epoch were the ideas of its ruling class, dominated always by the conception that the existing form of society was permanent. If the revolutionary party did not propagate its own ideas, scientific Socialism, the Marxist interpretation not only of politics but of society, then the ideas of the ruling classes, directed to the maintenance of the existing system, would continue to corrupt the minds of the masses and weaken their will to struggle. Bourgeois ideology was with him no hysterical term of abuse, but a definite obstacle in the way of the revolution, to be hacked away from the working-class movement wherever it appeared. The idea of workers putting faith in the bourgeois conception of a League of Nations would have been intolerable to him.

By means of an all-Russian newspaper the party could do more than spread its Marxist analysis of politics and society and give general directions. The very work of disseminating such a paper over the huge country would keep the various members of the party in close touch with the centre, and build up a skeleton organisation in preparation for the revolutionary mass movement. For him the first aim of the masses was to seize the State-power. Between 1900 and 1903 therefore he waged ceaseless war against the Economists. But although the day-to-day economic struggle was always waged with a view to the ultimate political objective, yet the members of his party dug themselves deep into the workers’ movements, pointing out the political implications of the struggle between capital and labour but fighting with the workers for their immediate demands. Lenin spent two years writing a philosophical work against a philosophical deviation from Marxism, but his party was always rooted in the masses, speaking to them in their own language about the things they could understand.

The Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party met in London in 1903. Chiefly owing to Lenin’s paper and the intensification of the class-struggle following the crisis, Economism seemed defeated. The majority of the class-conscious workers in Russia were supporters of Lenin’s revolutionary wing. Neither Lenin nor any other member of the party had any idea of a split. Yet it came over a matter comparatively simple but which by degrees was seen to be what it really was, another variant within the Russian Labour movement of the opposing tendencies which we have seen at work in Western Europe. Lenin wanted a rigid narrow organisation, with a highly centralised discipline. Far better to lose ten absolutely firstclass revolutionaries, rather than allow one chatterbox in. He wanted a strict division of labour inside the party, each member being responsible for a job of work with which he mainly concerned himself. The regulation of the party, he demanded, should be equally harsh. Under the regime of Tsarism formal democracy was impossible. He advocated democratic centralism. The Central Committee should be freely elected, whenever possible there would be free discussions, but once a decision had been taken it would have to be obeyed blindly. This meant long periods when the Central Committee living abroad would have to take decisions which party members in Russia would have to obey without question. Lenin himself could hardly have been conscious of all that these plans implied; otherwise he would not have been so shocked and grieved at the opposition he met with. [4] But he would not give way, and won by a narrow margin. Thenceforward his group was known as the Bolsheviks (the majority) and the others the Mensheviks (the minority). Trotsky, a young but even then a very brilliant member of the party, went with the minority on this question of organisation. He has since admitted that he was wrong; too generously, for the question is not so simple. The leaders of the Second International, even the revolutionary internationalists, were divided on Lenin’s democratic centralism which had split the Russian section. Rosa Luxemburg was against Lenin. It is only on reading the old disputes in the light of to-day that we see the complex gravity of the issues involved. Few in Lenin’s party understood them. Stalin and the Stalinists do not understand them to this day.


Lenin saw the party as a small cog putting the great body of the workers into motion. Hence his insistence on the quality of the party.

"The stronger our party organisations, made up of genuine social democrats, and the less the waverings and instability within the party, the broader and more varied, the richer and more fertile will be the influence of the party on the working-class masses who environ it and whom it leads." [5] Trotsky, believing in a much broader organisation, attacked Lenin with extreme bitterness and sarcasm:

"In order to prepare the working-class for political power, it is necessary to develop and exercise in it the spirit of initiative and the habit of constant and active control over the entire executive personnel of the revolution. This is the great political task pursued by the international social democracy. But for the ’Social Democratic Jacobins,’ [6] for the fearless representatives of the system of organisational substitutionalism, the preparation of the class for the government of the country, is supplanted by an organisational technical task, preparation of the apparatus of power. ...

"The first task sees its main problem in the methods of political education and re-education of the entire, constantly increasing proletariat by the means of drawing them into active political work. The second task reduces everything to the technical selection of disciplined executives into the links of the ’strong and authoritative organisation,’ a selection which, for the sake of reducing the work cannot but be carried on by the mechanical elimination of those considered to be unfit: by ’derivations’ and ’deprivations’ of rights."

Lenin had answered this objection in advance: No political party could educate the whole working class.

"We must not confuse the Party as the vanguard of the working class with the whole class. ... "We are the Party of a class, and therefore almost the whole class (and in ’time of war’ or civil war, absolutely the whole class) must act under the leadership of our Party and must be associated with our Party as intimately as possible. But it would be sheer Manilovism, sheer Khvotism, [7] to think that the whole class, or nearly the whole class, can ever under Capitalism attain to the level of class consciousness and activity of its vanguard, its Social Democratic Party."

There can to-day be no argument about the differing points of view. Trotsky was wrong. Yet from this false approach the specific criticisms which he levelled against Lenin’s principles as they worked out in practice cannot be dismissed, least of all to-day. He painted a picture of party life since Lenin’s insistent advocacy of centralism. "During the last three to four years of intense party frictions, the life of very many committees has consisted of a series of coups d’etat in the spirit of our court revolutions of the eighteenth century. Somewhere way up on top somebody is incarcerating, replacing, choking somebody else, somebody proclaims himself something–and as a result, the top of the committee house is adorned by a flag with the inscription, ’Orthodoxy, centralism, political struggle.’ " He accused the central apparatus itself of starting a new discussion every month, "the apparatus supplies the topic for it, feeds it by false materials, draws its summary, dispenses justice, postpones congress for a year, and is now preparing a congress from among its own apparatus workers previously appointed, who are to authoritate the people on top to continue this work in the future as well."

Even to-day after forty years of political life, Trotsky’s fundamental intellectual integrity remains unshaken. These charges must have had solid foundation. Between " 1903 and 1923 the Bolshevik Party did all that a political party could do. Yet it cannot be accidental that the history of the Russian Communist Party and of the whole Communist International from the moment Lenin lay hopelessly ill, up to the unanimous vote on the "final and irrevocable victory" in 1935, iS but a series of gigantic variations on Trotsky’s reasons for refusing to accept Lenin’s methods of organisation. For fourteen years he fought Lenin on this question. For him Lenin’s democratic centralism meant that "the organisation of the party substitutes itself for the party, the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organisation, and finally the dictator substitutes himself for the Central Committee." It was "the replacement of the dictatorship of the proletariat by the dictatorship over the proletariat, of the political rule of the class by the organisational rule over the class." While Plekhanov [8] wrote some equally memorable and Prophetic words: "The ultimate end of all this will be that everything will revolve around a single man who, ex providentia, will concentrate all the power in himself."

There is more in this than simple wrong and right. No Proletarian revolution can succeed without a revolutionary party of the proletariat. No party can succeed without a strong centralised discipline, an International without centralism is no International at all. But centralism is a dangerous tool for a party which aims at Socialism, and can ruin as well as build. Lenin was a man big enough to forge this weapon fearlessly, use it to the utmost limit and yet realise its limits. He was a dialectician and knew that democratic centralism was very near to democracy at one time and equally near to pure centralism at another. Yet it would be idle to deny that all through his association with the party he dominated it. But he was utterly selfless and devoted, and, lucky in the fact of his unquestioned superiority, at the height of his power he used party discipline for the party, never for himself. He remained always subject to it, prepared at critical times in 1917 to offer his resignation rather than seek to manipulate the party. Yet despite his authority he was more than once the prisoner of the conceptions he had so rigidly instilled. The dangerous centralism of the Soviet regime in Russia was the constant preoccupation of his last years. He could not have been unaware that he had himself contributed to this by countenancing the usurpation of the power of the masses in their Soviets. He had hoped that until the revolution in Western Europe relieved Russia, the party, always the advance guard, would act in defence of the masses against the bureaucracy, mobilise the masses against it. But it was only during his last illness that he saw clearly what was coming, what had already come in the party, that abuse of democratic centralism which Trotsky had always feared in any system which, like Lenin’s, so openly glorified central control. From his sick-bed he fought it with a feverish intensity. He failed, and with the development of the bureaucracy the democracy dropped completely out of centralism. From the Russian party it spread to the whole International. Centralism which helped to create the International helped to ruin it.

There is no specific for this problem. It will have to be fought out anew in each party as every emergency presents itself. But that can best be done only when there is a clear understanding of the issues involved. It is perhaps the greatest of the many bows that the revolutionary Ulysses will have to bend.


Unconsciously the two groups had been fighting the first decisive engagement in a battle of far-reaching significance, over no less a question than whether international Socialism was to be kept alive in Europe elsewhere than in the studies of a few devotees. Engels had not been dead ten years.

That Lenin and the Bolsheviks won was due chiefly to the Tsarist regime in Russia. Liberal thought kept in contact with the Labour movement through the Menshevik party, seeking to turn the workers from revolution to Liberalism. But Tsarism kept so tight a grip on the nation, allowed so little scope for parliamentary maneuvering, that not even the Liberals, far less the opportunist leaders of the Labour movement, could ever identify themselves with the Russian Government. The Russian petty-bourgeois Socialists had no parliamentary prospects because there was no parliament. Trade Unions were prohibited by law and allowed only on sufferance. An office in a Trade Union was a post of danger, not of security. Yet Menshevism proved itself inside two years to be incontestably another form of Revisionism. All sorts of cross-currents, personal and otherwise, had played their part in the dispute of 1903, and continued to do so during the years that followed. But at every serious crisis the masses of the workers followed the Bolsheviks in action, while in ordinary times they could not see the differences between the two groups and were bewildered and discouraged by the bitterness of the factional struggle. Yet it was in the intervals between political crises that Lenin had to fight hardest, keeping the Bolsheviks ideologically clear and organisationally firm against all forms of corruption, open or insidious. Never was any victory of world-historical importance won so much by a single man as was this victory by Lenin. It is the intrigue, corruption and stupidity of fellow-workers in the cause which destroys revolutionary will, and not the repression of the bourgeoisie. Lenin, one of the strongest of men, nearly gave up in 1904, and contemplated going to America to study statistics. The fit of discouragement passed and he remained. [9]

In the second week of the following year, on January 9, Tsarism in defence of law and order shot down thousands of petitioners going to lay their grievances before their ruler. The great masses learnt from Tsarist bullets what the revolutionaries had been preaching for years. The whole Social Democratic Party recognised that the insurrection, the first stage of the revolution, was on the order of the day, but when Lenin, for the Bolsheviks, issued the call for the organisational preparation and the arming of the people, the Menshevik leaders accused him of adventurism, of trying to overthrow the Government by conspiracy, of Blanquism. Did they admit that the revolution was on the way? They did. What then was to be done? Why not call upon the workers to prepare? No. Instead Martinov, one of their leaders, said that the revolution should be "unleashed" not "organised," that instead of seeking to arm the workers, they should be filled with "a burning desire" to arm. Behind these differences in phrasing were different conceptions of the coming revolution which would make all the difference between a possible success and a certain failure. Like their brothers of the Second International to-day, the Mensheviks trembled at the prospect of the armed workers.

In the middle of 1905, under the influence of the coming revolution, the groups held separate conferences, and with the Menshevik resolutions before him Lenin realised clearly for the first time that there was more between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks than the organisational question. "Theoretical differences have grown." The Mensheviks had watered down the whole revolutionary analysis of the insurrection "lest the bourgeoisie desert." Whatever their internationalism in phrase the Mensheviks were looking to their own bourgeoisie for help in the revolution. Lenin was looking to the Russian proletariat and beyond them to the proletarian revolution in Europe. It is this belief in the international proletariat which so sharply distinguished Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, from other leaders of the working-class movement. That is the eternal struggle in the Labour movement, in 1905 against Tsarism, in 1914, in 1935 on behalf of Abyssinia, in 1936 on behalf of Spanish workers and peasants, either to be with and therefore subordinate to your own bourgeoisie, or to be with the international proletariat. It is a struggle which will go on until international Socialism is achieved. Men like Citrine, Bevin and Leon Blum have a contempt for the proletarian movement far greater than many capitalists have. And Stalin has joined them. Stalin to-day is the complete Menshevik, seeking to save Soviet Russia with the help of the French, British and Czechoslovakian bourgeoisie. Trotsky maintains the Leninist position. The new ideological conflict is only another variant of the old.


In those early days of the 1905 revolution there were three views of the coming upheaval, the Bolshevik view of Lenin (for those close to Lenin no views apart from his own or if they had soon dropped them), the Menshevik view, and Trotsky’s theory of the Permanent Revolution.

It was in the shock of the first events of the revolution that Trotsky produced his theory. It was opposed in essentials by Lenin, adopted by him in April, 1917, at a most critical moment in the history of the third revolution, and formed the theoretical foundation of the Soviet Union and the Third International until a few months after the death of Lenin in 1924. Both Lenin and Trotsky, like Marx and Engels in their instructions to the German revolutionaries of 1850, based their analysis on a scrupulous examination of the Russian problem in its relation to the International Socialist revolution.

Peasant Russia in 1905 was a country with some hundred million peasants in the countryside, living under semi-feudal conditions. The great landlords who dominated the countryside formed the natural support of the reactionary Tsarist autocracy. In France in 1789 the peasant revolt was successful because the bourgeoisie was also hostile to the existing regime. The French bourgeoisie using (however reluctantly) the leverage of the peasantry to destroy feudalism and create the conditions for the expansion of Capitalist production, give the classical example of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Such a revolution seemed to be facing Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. But the Russia of 1905 was vastly dissimilar to the France of 1789. The more to the East they are, the more treacherous and cowardly are the bourgeoisie. This is a famous Marxist aphorism. With the discovery of America the bourgeoisie of the sea-board countries of Europe so dominated the economy of the State that they were the natural leaders of peasants and people against feudal reaction. In Russia, however, owing to the Tartar invasions which cut off the Eastern trade and ruined the industrial towns, and on the other hand to the long start of Western European industry whose goods flooded Russia and impeded native production, the bourgeoisie remained always helpless before Tsarism. Just as Spanish feudalism used the gold of America to strengthen its position against the Spanish bourgeoisie and ruin the future of the country, so Russian autocracy was able to use the means of repression developed in Western Europe, and later, Western capital, in order to retain its position and thus retard the industrial development of Russia. For the big bourgeoisie of Western Europe, while prating of democracy, quite shamelessly supported Tsarism against the bourgeoisie and lent it money, because State loans were more dependable in their short-sighted view than any other. To this age-old historical weakness of the Russian bourgeoisie was added the rapid development of the Labour movement in the last years of the nineteenth century, so that whereas the peasantry of France and the masses in Paris and the other big towns of France marched against feudalism full of confidence in their ·bourgeoisie, and could always find some section of the bourgeoisie to lead them when one section deserted, the industrial workers in the Russian towns long before the revolution were already in bitter conflict with their own bourgeoisie, the insoluble conflict of capital and labour.

Lenin, therefore, saw that the Russian bourgeoisie might talk of overthrowing Tsarism (as Liberals will talk of overthrowing Fascism). But as soon as the Liberals saw the workmen in the streets they would see not only the enemies of Tsarism, but their own enemies, and would of necessity rush to compromise with the reaction. Neither could they lead the peasantry. For the bourgeoisie in Russia Here dependent, as the industrial bourgeoisie everywhere, upon the banks to which the landlords were heavily indebted. The bourgeoisie could not give the peasants the land without ruining the bourgeois banks. The proletariat therefore would have to lead the peasantry and the petty-bourgeoisie against Tsarism, and accomplish the bourgeois revolution over the heads of the bourgeoisie. Hence the Bolshevik slogans–the eight-hour working day for the proletariat, the confiscation of land for the peasants, and the democratic republic.

This plan of linking the proletarian revolution with the agrarian was, as with so much in the history of the Russian Revolution, Lenin’s own; and as with so many of Lenin’s ideas, he was developing a thought of Marx during the revolutionary period of 1848-1850, when he suggested that the task in Germany was to link the struggle of the German proletariat with the desire of the serfs to free themselves. In all this Trotsky followed Lenin.

The question on which they split was: what form would the State-power take which would carry through this revolution, and what would happen afterwards? All revolutionaries, indeed all students of history except Social Democrats, know that the transition from one social regime to another is made by a stern dictatorship, which violently destroys the basis of the old order and clears the way for the new. Cromwell’s dictatorship had been a dictatorship of the petty-bourgeoisie; Robespierre’s dictatorship had been the same. Marx had therefore labelled the dictatorship which would accomplish the transition from Capitalism to Socialism the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But for Lenin, as for Trotsky and all the great European Socialists of the time, Socialism for backward Russia was an absurdity. The proletariat could lead the nation against Tsarism and destroy it. But in Russia, overwhelmingly an agrarian country, the productive forces were too backward, the proletariat, the new class which would create Socialism, was too weak in relation to the rest of the country to begin the task of transforming Russian Capitalist society into Socialist with any real prospect of success. Therefore, for Lenin, the dictatorship of the proletariat in the familiar Marxian sense was out of the question. The dictatorship of the proletariat was a Government that would destroy the bourgeois State and maintain power until the abolition of every vestige of Capitalism. But the Russian proletariat had to abolish feudalism and institute a democratic republic. The dictatorship he foresaw was, therefore, a democratic dictatorship. But though the proletariat was to lead, the driving force of the revolution was to come from the peasantry, and the proletariat would have to share the political power with a party representing the peasantry. Hence his final formula of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. The relationship between proletarian party and peasant party in this revolutionary Government he did not know, and according to the period at which he was writing he gave a different content to the formula. The Social Revolutionaries, the party which worked among the peasantry and claimed to represent its interests, were an unknown factor. He at one time even considered that it might have such support from the peasantry as would enable it to dominate the proletarian party. Lenin did not know. The most cautious of men, he put forward his formula and observed events to see how things would work out in practice. Whatever form this revolutionary Government took, its work was to give the land to the peasants, clear away Tsarism, crush the reaction, and call a constituent assembly to elect a democratic parliament. He knew the elementary truth, that the nature of the constituent assembly and the coming democratic constitution of Russia depended on the class nature of the revolutionary dictatorship which summoned the assembly and laid down the conditions of election and suffrage. His intention was to drive the democratic constitution as far forward as possible.

His further perspective was a great development of Russian Capitalism under a democratic Russia. [10] It was the revolutionary proletariat of Russia leading the peasantry that would give the craven Liberal bourgeoisie its chance at last. In this republic the proletarian party would for a period occupy the same position that the Communist parties in Western Europe to-day occupied up to 1935, fighting for the Socialist revolution. But the revolution did not end there. The peasantry as a whole would have supported the revolution at the beginning, but as the revolution drove forward, the peasants would detach themselves and join with the reaction. The democratic revolution, left to itself, would then most certainly be defeated. Lenin was as clear on this as he was on any point. [11] But the proletariat and the poorer peasantry in Russia had an ally–the proletariat of Europe. He calculated that the first few years of a revolution in Russia led by the proletariat would unloose tremendous upheavals in the shaky structure of European Capitalism. He counted on a Socialist revolution in Western Europe, and stated over and over again that, unless there were such revolution even the democratic republic of Russia would collapse. With Socialist revolutions in Europe, however, the Russian proletariat, further strengthened by the Capitalist development in Russia, would be able to achieve the second revolution in Russia–the Russian Socialist revolution. This would institute the dictatorship of the proletariat and set out on the building of Socialism.


Up to 1904 Trotsky had a similar perspective. Then in 1905 he changed and waged irreconcilable polemic with the Bolsheviks against Lenin’s formula of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, leading to a bourgeois regime. According to Trotsky’s new theory the Russian proletariat would lead the revolution from the start, but the revolutionary Government would result in the dictatorship of the proletariat and the road to Socialism, or it would collapse. The peasants could not form an effective political party of their own. The moment the proletariat held the power, the proletarian Government would be faced with the opposition of the capitalists. These would immediately decide upon the lock-out because, there being no Socialism, their property was still capitalist property. The proletarian Government, faced with unemployment and the disorganisation of economy, would have no alternative but to take over the factories and run them themselves for the benefit of the workers. This was the Socialist road, and once begun the process could not stop. The proletariat would have to hold the power. The peasantry would support the revolution until the confiscation of the land. But after that, every socialistic step that the proletariat would be compelled to take would send the richer peasantry into the arms of the reaction, so that these allies of the proletariat to-day would be its enemies of to-morrow. So backward Russia was ready for Socialism! Both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks derided him. No. He saw the salvation of the premature dictatorship of the Russian proletariat in the Socialist revolution in Europe, which would place the State-power in the hands of the proletariat of one or more of the advanced countries such as Germany, England or France. Like Lenin, his analysis of European Capitalism led him to the belief that the revolution in Russia would serve as a detonator for the revolution in Western Europe. Without that revolution the Russian proletariat was doomed and the reaction would conquer. He did not ask for the slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat to be raised forthwith. The struggle would begin as a struggle for a bourgeois-democratic revolution, but the logic of the situation in Russia would lead inevitably to the proletariat establishing its own dictatorship and beginning the Socialist reconstruction of Russian economy. So that the revolution was permanent in three ways. First, in the way that what was apparently a revolution for the rights of bourgeois democracy would grow inevitably into the dictatorship of the proletariat. Secondly, the way in which the dictatorship of the proletariat would be compelled to begin the long transformation of Russian Capitalism into Socialism. Thirdly, the way in which the Russian revolution would lead to proletarian revolution in Europe and the permanent economic revolution in Capitalist society. We shall understand and appreciate the range and profundity of these analyses when we remember that for both this was a perspective covering decades. The Russian Revolution would last years.

The Mensheviks produced a special theory of their own. Marx had said that a new social order appeared only when the old is exhausted. Obviously Capitalism in Russia still had a large capacity for expansion. Therefore they agreed with Lenin that the revolution was a bourgeois revolution, and agreed with him and Trotsky that Russia was not ripe for Socialism. But like the Russian bourgeoisie they saw Russian Capitalism in isolation. They would not see what Marx and Engels had always seen, that Capitalist production was international and therefore was always to be teen as a whole. For these nationalists, therefore, the only ally of the Russian proletariat was the Russian bourgeoisie. Nothing was to be done to frighten it. The workers were not to arm themselves too soon. Instead they should be stimulated with "burning desire." The revolution would be "spontaneously" accomplished somehow. The Social Democratic Party was to take no part in the provisional revolutionary government–this was to be left to the bourgeoisie. The workers party would supply vigilant criticism. Thus, even when hounded down by tyranny, imprisoned; tortured and executed, driven by the knout of Tsarism to admit the necessity of revolution, with the workers of their own accord challenging the Government in the streets, the Mensheviks, first in theory and afterwards, as we shall see, in practice, had no perspective beyond supporting the Liberal bourgeoisie. They would "urge" the Liberals, they would "bring pressure to bear" on them.

After 1903, as soon as Trotsky realised where the Mensheviks were tending, he disentangled himself from them. But separated from Lenin first by the organisational question and then by his opposition to Lenin’s democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the party, he remained outside both groups. It was one of the fundamental weaknesses of Trotsky as a revolutionary leader that he could produce this masterly theory of the Permanent Revolution, driving ahead so far beyond Lenin, and yet at the same time advocated organisational fusion with the Mensheviks.

Lenin was consumed with rage at the programme which the Mensheviks put before the revolutionary workers. "The revolutionary mood of the proletariat is growing daily and hourly. At such a moment Martinov’s views are not only absurd, they are criminal." He proposed that more workers should be brought into the local committees which controlled various sections of the movement. In 1903 his rigid restriction of the party membership was aimed at keeping out the bourgeois intellectuals. Now in 1905 he closed the net against them still tighter. They did not understand discipline, and he knew that the Menshevik ideas which would assuredly lead the revolution to ruinous defeat came from above–from the Liberal bourgeoisie.


So often to many even of his closest followers did Lenin’s ideas at their first utterance seem the product of a disordered brain, so logically on the other hand did they follow from his Marxist outlook, that it is imperative and convenient here to give some example of how he thought. Without this his theorising about Russian revolution and world revolution (and Trotsky’s theory of the Permanent Revolution) must seem to be mere raving. A quite casual article, written in 1908 after the failure of the 1905 revolution, will show us how different from those of the bourgeois and the Second Internationalists was his view of politics. He entitles his article "Inflammable Material in World Politics," [12] but he is really writing about the second Russian Revolution which for him is "inevitable."

"The revolutionary movement in the various states of Europe and Asia has manifested itself so formidably of late that we can discern quite clearly the outlines of a new and incomparably higher stage in the international struggle of the proletariat."

He begins with Persia. It is nothing unexpected that the Tsar had helped the barbarous rulers of Persia to crush a revolution, but he notes as a phenomenon that the Liberal English bourgeois, irritated by the growth of the Labour movement at home, and frightened by the rise of the revolutionary struggle in India, are more and more frequently revealing how brutal the most civilised European "statesmen can be in defence of Capitalism. In Turkey the young Turk movement has won only half a victory, but such a half-victory involving concessions given by the old Government under pressure are the direct pledges of new, far more decisive, and acute vicissitudes of civil war, involving broader masses of the people. Civil war includes "inevitably" the victories of the counter-revolution with its debaucheries of enraged reactionaries, and savage punishments meted out by old Governments to rebels. But only down-right pedants and decrepit mummies can grieve over the fact that the nations have entered the painful school of revolution in which the oppressed learn how to conduct a victorious civil war.

There is no end to the violence and plunder which is called British rule in India. Lenin details the oppression and the tyranny, but notes that the Indian masses are beginning to come out into the streets in defence of their native writers and political leaders. "The Indian proletariat too has already matured sufficiently to wage a class conscious and political mass-struggle–and that being the case Anglo-Russian methods in India are played out." Further plunder and terrorism will only harden millions and tens of millions of proletarians in Asia. "The class conscious workers of europe now have Asiatic comrades and their number will grow by leaps and bounds." There is little information from China, but the transformation of the old Chinese riots into a conscious democratic movement is inevitable. In France, and even in America and England "where there is complete political liberty," and revolutionary and Socialist traditions are lacking, the growth of Socialism and the independent proletarian struggle are plainly visible. [13] "Two hostile camps are slowly but surely increasing their forces, are strengthening their organisations and are separating with increasing sharpness in all fields of public life, as if silently and intently preparing for the impending revolutionary battles." In France and Italy the conflict has reached sudden outbursts of civil war. The international revolutionary movement of the proletariat does not proceed and cannot proceed evenly and in the same form in different countries. The thorough and all-sided utilisation of all possibilities in all spheres of activity comes only as a result of the class-struggle of the workers of various countries. Every individual country has its own weaknesses, theoretical or practical; every country has its own distinctive traits to contribute. But international Socialism has made an enormous stride forward, and in a number of concrete encounters the millions of proletarians are welding themselves together for the decisive struggle against the bourgeoisie–a struggle for which the working-class is immeasurably better prepared than at the time of the Paris Commune, the last great struggle of the proletariat.

It is in relation to this background that he places the "inevitable" second Russian revolution. This "stride forward by the whole of international Socialism together with the sharpening of the revolutionary democratic struggle in Asia, places the Russian revolution in a peculiar and particularly difficult position." The Russian revolution possesses a great international ally both in Europe and in Asia, but "just because of this" it possesses "not only a national, not only a Russian, but also an international enemy." Reaction against the growing struggle of the proletariat is inevitable in all Capitalist countries, and this reaction unites bourgeois governments of the whole world against any revolution, in Asia and especially in Europe. The opportunists, the Mensheviks, like the Russian intelligentsia, were dreaming of a revolution which would not "scare" the bourgeoisie. "Vain hopes! A philistine Utopia!" Inflammable material is accumulating in the progressive countries, and awakening so rapidly the countries in Asia which yesterday were fast asleep, that the struggle of inter national bourgeois reaction against each individual national revolution is absolutely inevitable. The Russian proletariat must therefore follow its own path independently and assist the peasantry to destroy feudal reaction; "it must set itself the task of establishing the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry in Russia and bear in mind that its struggle and its victories are indissolubly bound up with the international revolutionary movement. Fewer illusions concerning the liberalism of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie (in Russia and the entire world); more attention to the growth of the inter-national revolutionary proletariat!"

That was Lenin. He saw society internationally, not nationally; horizontally, not vertically. In the unruffled , confidence of this luminous survey we see into the basic structure of his thought. He could no more wrench the Russian Revolution (or for that matter any other revolution) from its international background than he could wrench the heart out of his body. "Fewer illusions concerning the liberation of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie (in Russia and the entire world); more attention to the growth of the international revolutionary proletariat." Who but Lenin, Trotsky and a few others were thinking of the international proletariat as a force in 1908? The war accelerated, it did not create. The international proletariat, despite Fascist victories over so many countries in Europe, is still a powerful force to-day; it could have been used on behalf of Abyssinia, on behalf of Spain, if the will and the means existed to set it in motion. Lenin would have made a pact with France, but never at the cost of the french proletariat. Stalin, his successor, has been congenitally unable to think in this way. Whenever faced with a choice between proletariat and bourgeoisie, he and the bureaucracy whom he represents have always chosen the bourgeoisie, and always paid heavily for that choice.


The 1905 Revolution failed. But the whole course of the revolution served only to strengthen Lenin’s belief in his ideas. A general strike in 1903 had indicated that this was the initial form the revolution would take. The October strike of 1905 began in Moscow, and in a few days had stopped the whole life of the country. Trotsky and one of his collaborators in the theory of the Permanent Revolution took over a small paper, the Russian Gazette. In a few days the circulation went from 30,000 to 100,000. Inside a month it was at half a million. To Witte, the Tsarist bureaucrat, the whole people seemed to have gone mad. For Lenin, 1905 was only another proof of the terrific driving power and creative capacity of the masses during a revolution. On the initiative of the Mensheviks the workers formed their Soviets or factory councils, one delegate to every five hundred workers, and Trotsky, the acknowledged leader of 1905, as far as there was one, in time became president of the Petersburg Soviet. Lenin reached Russia late, and as always without him his party blundered. The workers, irrespective of party, rushed to join and support the Soviets. But the Bolshevik leaders, misunderstanding Lenin’s insistence on the organisational integrity of the party, wanted to keep the Bolsheviks away from the Soviet as a non-party organisation. It was only after Lenin arrived that the Bolsheviks entered these mass organisations of the workers to influence them. In the onward sweep of the revolution Bolshevik and Menshevik workers insisted that the two fractions should work together. The Menshevik leaders exercised little influence, and Trotsky’s policy at the Soviet coincided so closely with Lenin’s that the two groups for a time worked harmoniously. When Tsarism, in an attempt to split the anti-Tsarist [14] forces, offered a travesty of a constitution, it was at once gladly accepted by the Liberals. The Mensheviks were ready to trot docile]y behind, but the masses of the workers followed the Bolsheviks always. With the defeat of the revolution, however, and the decline of the movement the differences again became acute. At a unity congress in 1907 the Mensheviks had a majority of sixty-two to forty-nine. They raised the cry that the revolt should not have taken place. Lenin ordered a change of tactics from the organisation of revolution to ordinary hum-drum everyday constitutional activity. But he poured scorn on the impertinent thesis that the great mass uprising of the Russian people against Tsarism "should not have taken place."

In the international field the revolution showed that the analyses of both Lenin and Trotsky were fundamentally correct. The Russian Revolution, failure though it was, stirred the sleepy Second International; it gave universal suffrage to Austria; it was felt in the Liberal elections of 1906. In those days when revolution at home was, in their opinion, impossible, the Second Internationalists had no objection to revolutions elsewhere. Even Ramsay MacDonald was pro-Bolshevik in those days, and insisted that some money for the Russian revolutionaries should be used for active revolution and not for propaganda.[15]

Confident of a second uprising, Lenin called for and set the example of a close study of the revolution to see why it failed, in order to guarantee success next time. The period of the reaction saw a great development of Russian capitalism, and the strengthening of the liberal bourgeoisie. Their influence on the Mensheviks increased. They subsidised the Menshevik papers. A large body of Mensheviks, the Liquidators, sought to liquidate the illegal organisation and the preparation for a new revolution in Russia. They were expelled from the party. Trotsky, still outside both groups, fought for unity, making his last attempt in August, 1912. But Lenin, though anxious for unity, was adamant on his principles, and this time the split was final. The movement began to rise again in 1912, and with its rise it was clear that the majority of the Petersburg workers were following the Bolsheviks. Despite his untiring abuse of Trotsky for seeking unity, Lenin always knew the calibre of the man, and as the movement rose again asked him to write for his paper. Trotsky refused. He edited a paper of his own, and in addition to polemics with Lenin made one important contribution to Marxist theory. In his studies of economics, he discovered that after the failure of a revolution and the demoralisation of the masses, a period of prosperity was needed to strengthen the masses and make them take up the struggle again. As prosperity increased, the masses on the basis of increased wages, successful strikes, etc., grew stronger and more militant. Another economic crisis would then precipitate the new revolution. The theory was to prove its value in the post-war years.

The revolutionary movement gathered strength. In July, 1914, there were barricades in Petersburg. The war dammed the revolution for a time, only to give it greater ,force three years later. August, 1914, found Bolsheviks and Mensheviks still split, each section claiming to represent the Russian Social Democracy at the Second International. The Bolsheviks had kept alive the theories and practice of Marxism. Thus it happened that when they were needed the European Labour movement did not have to search painfully for them.


[1] As late as 1926 Bernard Shaw was preaching them in his Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism.

[2] Despite all the revolutionary trimmings the Popular Front is nothing more.

[3] The Social Democrats of to-day do not believe that. But it is highly probable that most of them did before 1914.

[4] Krupskaya says that the break then and afterwards with old friends severely shook his health.

[5]Half the secret of a revolutionary party is wrapped in those words. Not only the layman but many so-called revolutionaries cannot understand that mere size is not and never has been decisive.

[6] A name flung at Lenin in controversy, which he thankfully accepted.

[7] Tailing behind.

[8] He sided with Lenin at first, then left him.

[9]Souvarine, Stalin’s French biographer, says categorically: No Lenin, no Bolshevism. The writer subscribes entirely to that dictum. Those who would oppose this designedly sharp formulation have to produce some evidence in contemporary leaders of Lenin’s peculiar quality–that combination of theory and organisation which was Bolshevism. It has not been seen on any scale in Europe since.

[10] See for example his Two Tactics, which contains a dozen references to this future Capitalist development of Russia after the revolution.

[11] See p. 64.

[12] P. 297. Selected Works, Vol. iv, Martin Lawrence.

[13] The great strikes that preceded the War were still to come.

[14] To-day read "anti-Fascist."

[15] Lenin on Britain, Martin Lawrence, p. 109.


BEFORE THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR WAS OVER MARX HAD written that a war between France and Germany meant of necessity war between Germany and Russia, unless previously a revolution broke out in Russia. "If they take Alsace-Lorraine, then France with Russia will arm against Germany. It is superfluous to point out the disastrous consequences."

Engels by 1895 could trace the full consequences of this division of Europe, intensified by the development of Capitalism, the ensuing scramble for domination of the continent, which spread, when Europe became too small, to Asia and Africa. It would be a war, he foretold, of positions and varied success on the French frontier, attack and capture of Polish frontiers on the Russian border, and a revolution in Petersburg "which will at once make the gentlemen who are conducting the war see everything in an entirely different light." Between fifteen and twenty million armed men would slaughter one another and lay waste Europe as never before, and this would lead either to the immediate victory of Socialism or leave behind such a heap of ruins that the old Capitalist society would become more impossible than ever before. Socialism might be set back for ten or fifteen years, but would then conquer in a more speedy and thorough fashion. But much as he hoped otherwise, Engels had at last realised the full corruption of the German Social Democracy. A European war would smash it to pieces, and throw back the movement twenty years. But the new party that must inevitably arise in the end from these conditions would in all the countries of Europe be free from a host of vacillations and pettinesses "which to-day hem in our movement on every side." Not in Germany alone but "in all the countries of Europe." It was the Third International.

Between 1897 and 1912 the Second International at conference after conference passed resolutions calling for international action of the working-class against war. A special conference was called at Basle in 1912 to prepare for the imminent war danger. All words, and words only. On August 4th, 1914, the Second International split into its component parts, each section of the belligerent nations going with its own bourgeoisie, except the Russian party (Bolsheviks and a wing of the Mensheviks) and some small parties in the Balkan countries.


Lenin was in Galicia in August, 1914. He was arrested on August 8, and released on August 19, as an enemy of Tsarism. On the 28th he left for Switzerland, reached Berne on September 5 and on that very day wrote his first article on the ideological and political collapse of the old international and the necessity for the new. It is these things that distinguish the great Marxist from all the peddling Social Democrats and the blundering Third International of to-day.

The future international, he said, must "realistically and irrevocably " free itself of the "bourgeois trend in socialism," by which he meant collaboration with the national bourgeoisie, instead of reliance on the international proletariat. By October he was full of confidence. "The proletarian international has not perished, and will not perish. The working masses will overcome all obstacles and create a new International ... long live a proletarian International free from opportunism." And later in the same month, "the Second International has died ... long live the Third International."

From that time on he devoted himself to preparing its theoretical foundation. Look through his works between September, 2924, and March, 1917. Though he was still almost entirely responsible for the direction of his party, his writings on the international situation and in what way the new International must differ from the old overshadow his writings on Russia. He brushes aside the responsibility of individuals and, ranging over the whole Socialist movement in Europe, traces the social basis of the bourgeois trend in Socialism, or as he called it opportunism. He seeks to split the true internationalists from those who have destroyed the international working-class movement by following their own bourgeoisie. He explains that by the collapse of the Second International he means its collapse as a revolutionary force. He appeals for a programme which will call on the workers to build a Marxian international openly and without the opportunists: "Only such a programme showing that we believe in ourselves, that we believe in Marxism, that we declare a life and death struggle against opportunism, would sooner or later secure for us the sympathy of the real proletarian masses." Never was any doctrinaire leader better served by the teeming heterogeneous millions of every country, and he won their support because he believed in them. He could not have got it otherwise.

When the International would be formed neither he nor any one else could say. It was a revolutionary duty to work for it, and the first necessity was a clear programme which would not compromise on a single aspect of Marxian Socialism.

The immediate issue was, however, the war. He formulated his policy without hesitation or equivocation. Startling as it appeared at first, it flowed inevitably from his political background. The workers had no business fighting each other. The enemy was in your own country. Peace, but peace by revolution, by fighting the class-war against your own bourgeoisie, by turning the imperialist war into civil war. [1] The war was not for democracy or any such impudent deception, fit only for Liberals and Social Democrats. Was Tsarist Russia fighting for democracy? It was a war for the redivision of colonies and spheres of influence. Any imperialist peace would therefore be a mockery. To lead the masses to expect a democratic peace, without annexations and with self-determination for nations, was bourgeois lying or petty-bourgeois ignorance and stupidity. Peace, but peace by revolution. The slogan of peace without the call for revolution was a preacher’s slogan. When the revolution would come no one could say. Cautious as ever, he said that it might be during this first imperialist war or during the one which would certainly follow it. The task was to work to that end. To refuse to enter the army was a rejection of the struggle. When there was no revolutionary situation and you were given a ballot box –take it. To-morrow when you were given a rifle, it was your business to take this weapon of death and destruction. "Do not turn to the sentimental whiners who are afraid of war. Much has been left in the world that must be destroyed by fire and iron for the liberation of the working-class. When the revolutionary situation was at hand these useful weapons were to be used against your own government and your own bourgeoisie." To the objection that the masses were not ready for these ideas he replied with his old conception of the difference between the working-class party and the working-class: "the slogans of the class-conscious vanguard of the workers (revolutionary Socialist democracy) are one thing and the elemental demands of the masses quite another," and, another profound revolutionary maxim: "It is never too early to tell the proletariat the truth about its own condition." History would bring the masses. Meanwhile he sought to unite all who remained true to Marxism to lay the foundations of the new revolutionary international. Without it the unity and cohesion of the working-class struggle against Capitalism was impossible. Not that he sought the universal overthrow of each national Capitalism at the same time. The uneven development of Capitalism, the peculiarities of the class struggle in each individual country, would bring the conflict to a decisive issue sooner in certain countries than in others. Each national party would have to lead the struggle against its own bourgeoisie. But the national party must be built on the international Marxist foundation, so that the growth of the national party meant the growth of the International.


But having stated his principles and his programme so that the simplest-minded worker, whether he accepted or rejected them, would at least have no doubts as to their meaning, Lenin set out to seek allies, "however vacillating, however temporary," for his views. And in his approach to those elements in the Second International who were moving, however slowly, to his own position and the position of his party, he showed yet another side of Leninism, its flexibility of tactic without which its programmatical rigidity would have doomed it to a dangerous and perhaps fatal sterility. The Second International, as we have seen, had not been homogeneous in its adherence to its own bourgeoisie. But even in those national organisations which had shepherded the workers to the slaughter, opposition had early shown itself. It ranged from those very close to revolutionary internationalism on the left to pacifists who abjured violence of any sort; behind the banner of anti-war a motley crowd will always march. As the full horror of the war unfolded itself, these began to seek some concrete means of checking the murderous savagery that was being enacted all over the world in the name of civilization.

In January, 1915, a conference of women Socialists met at Berne. Lenin sent his wife and some others to represent the Bolshevik Party. The conference rejected the revolutionary programme of the Bolshevik women (which Lenin had, of course, written) and passed a "miserable pacifist" resolution. Lenin’s delegation refused to sign it and withdrew. In September, 1915, Came the conference of anti-war Socialists at Zimmerwald, which Lenin attended at the head of the Bolshevik delegation. His resolution condemning the Second International and calling for peace by revolution and civil war was rejected by nineteen votes to twelve, and the Bolshevik delegation signed a compromise resolution. [2] In his paper Lenin openly faced the doubts as to whether the Central Committee was right in signing this manifesto, suffering as it did from "lack of consistency and from timidity." He put the case to the Russian workmen that it was. At the conference the Bolsheviks did not hide one iota of their views, slogans nor tactics. Their writings were distributed. "We have broadcasted, are broadcasting and shall broadcast our views with no less energy than our manifesto." After all, the manifesto, with all its shortcomings, was a step forward. "It would be sectarianism to refuse to take this step together with the minority of the German, French, Swedish, Norwegian and Swiss Socialists, when we retain full freedom and a full possibility to intrigue unceasingly and to struggle for more...."

That was the Leninist method; an inflexible rigidity in theory and organisation, put a willingness to combine for specific purposes with any other group once his independence for action and criticism was not tied. Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg had early called for the new international, but Trotsky refused to accept Lenin’s uncompromising demand that each Socialist should fight for the defeat of his own country. He still sought to bring together the various fractions of the party. He talked about peace without annexations. He maintained his theory of the Permanent Revolution. On all these points, particularly the first three, Lenin was violent in his denunciation of Trotsky. Yet he again asked Trotsky to write for his paper. Trotsky again refused.

The Second Internationalists, now violently pro-war, excelled the Capitalists in patriotic wrath against Zimmerwald, but events were steadily flogging waverers towards Lenin’s position. In April, 1916, there was another conference at Kienthal. The cruelty and rapacity of the imperialist statesmen were now plain to all who wanted to see, and the Kienthal conference passed a resolution which stated that Socialism was the only way out. It called upon the proletariat to fight, but though it criticised strongly the jingoists of the Second International it hesitated to break with them. Though the conference condemned bourgeois pacifism, it shirked the simple call, "Turn the imperialist war into civil war." But the revolutionary left, under the leadership of Lenin, convinced of the necessity of a break and the formation of a new International, had consolidated itself. The rest was now merely a matter of time. Then suddenly the steady left-ward tendency in the international working-class movement exploded in the Russian revolution. Lenin’s tactics at once changed. When he had been in Russia a few weeks, and seven months before October, the Zimmerwaldists proposed another conference. Lenin refused to have anything to do with them, and was in a minority of one in his own party for so doing. As the Bolsheviks without Lenin had failed to understand the necessity of immediately working in the Soviets in 1905, so now they failed to understand that the revolution in Russia had made it necessary to break with the vacillating Zimmerwaldists, that from the higher plane of the Russian Revolution the Bolshevik Party was now dominant, and if it could lead the Russian workers to victory would be able to impose its own terms for the fight against war. His followers did not understand his method then. They do not understand it yet.

In January, 1917, Lenin delivered a lecture on the 1905 revolution to an audience of young Swiss workers. He concluded with what is perhaps the most representative passage in his writings during the war. In it we see the range of his conceptions, the caution and precision with which he expressed them, his passionate convictions and his almost inhuman impersonality.

"Very often we meet West Europeans who argue about the Russian Revolution as if events, relationships and methods of struggle in that backward country have very little resemblance to West European relationships, and, therefore, can hardly have any practical significance. "There is nothing more erroneous than such an opinion. "No doubt the forms and occasions for the impending battles in the coming European revolution will differ in many respects from the forms of the Russian revolution. "Nevertheless, the Russian revolution-precisely because of its proletarian character–in that particular sense of which I have spoken [3] –was the prologue to the coming European revolution. Undoubtedly the coming revolution can only be a proletarian revolution in the profounder sense of the word; a proletarian, Socialist revolution also in its content. The coming revolution will show to an even greater degree, on the one hand, that only stern battles, only civil wars, can free humanity from the yoke of capital; on the other hand, that only class-conscious proletarians can and will come forth in the role of leaders of the vast majority of the exploited. "The present grave-like stillness in Europe must not deceive us. Europe is charged with revolution. The monstrous horrors of the imperialist war, the suffering caused by the high cost of living, engender everywhere a revolutionary spirit; and the ruling classes, the bourgeoisie with its servitors, the governments, are more and more moving into a blind alley from which they can never extricate themselves without tremendous upheavals. "Just as in Russia, in 1905, a popular uprising against the Tsarist government commenced under the leadership of the proletariat with the aim of achieving a democratic republic, so, in Europe, the coming years, precisely because of this predatory war, will lead to popular uprisings under the leadership of the proletariat against the power of finance capital, against the big banks, against the Capitalists; and these upheavals cannot end otherwise than with the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, with the victory of Socialism. "We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution. But I can, I believe, express the strong hope that the youth which is working so splendidly in the Socialist movement of Switzerland, and of the whole world, will be fortunate enough not only to fight, but also to win, in the coming proletarian revolution." [4]

He was only forty-six at the time and in good health. "We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution." He was never rhetorical. Three months after he heard that Tsarism had been overthrown and he prepared for the international proletarian revolution.


There is no exaggeration here. Lenin in January had seen that, in case of the collapse of Tsarism, the most probable Government would be a Government of Miliukov, the right-wing Liberal, and Kerensky, that most mischievous type, the left-wing Liberal with a Socialist colouring. When the news actually did reach him that such a Government had been formed, there are his letters to tell us exactly what his ideas were. The very first letter, March 16th, written to A. M. Kollontai, says: "Never again [5] along the lines of the Second International. ... Republican propaganda, war against imperialism, revolutionary propaganda, as heretofore, agitation and struggle for an international [5] proletarian revolution and for the conquest of power by the ’Soviets of Workers’ deputies...."’

On the next day he hammered again at the two cardinal principles of his life–the independence of the party and the international character of the Socialist revolution: "In my opinion our main task is to guard against getting entangled in foolish attempts at ’unity’ with the social-patriots (or what is still more dangerous, with the wavering ones, and the Organisation Committee, Trotsky and Co.) and to continue the work of our own [6] party in a consistently international spirit." [6] Lenin knew his colleagues, knew how easy was the descent into nationalism.

The international revolution would begin with the inevitable second revolution in Russia. The people had not made a revolution to get rid of Tsarism. They wanted land, bread, peace and freedom. But the Miliukov Government was a bourgeois Government. It could not give the peasants the land because that would ruin the banks on whose stability bourgeois life depended; it could not give peace because it was bound by financial ties to the war-making bourgeoisie of Western Europe; it could not give bread because bread could only be got by revolutionary measures against the landlords and capitalists, and these measures a Government of landlords and capitalists would not take; it could not give freedom because it was a Government of the propertied classes and was afraid of the people.

In his first letter Lenin still speaks of a democratic republic. But his mind travelled fast. On March 20th he had not yet left the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. "Our revolution is a bourgeois revolution, therefore the workers must support the bourgeoisie, say the worthless politicians among the liquidators. Our revolution is a bourgeois revolution, say we Marxists, therefore the workers must open the eyes of the people to the deceptive practices of the bourgeois politicians, must teach the people not to believe in words, but to depend wholly on their own strength, on organisation, on their own unity, and on arms."

Rut during that night he definitely changed his mind (there were hints in the previous letters). In this third of the Letters from Afar, March 21st, he writes: "We need revolutionary power, we need (for a certain period of transition) the State.

"We need the State but not the kind needed by the bourgeoisie, with organs of power in the form of police, army bureaucracy, distinct from and opposed to the people. All bourgeois revolutions have merely perfected this government apparatus, have merely transferred it from one party to another." In those few words was the end of his long struggle with Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution. If the State was to be merely for a period of transition, then it meant that he had thrown over the conception of a period of bourgeois democracy and the development of Russian Capitalism. The transitional Government, during the period when the development of productive forces would gradually make a State unnecessary, could only be the dictatorship of the proletariat. Why had he changed? It was because he was now confident that the Russian Revolution, coming in the middle of the greatest crisis Capitalism had ever known, would most certainly place the proletariat in power in one or more of the advanced countries of Western Europe. Thus the Russian proletariat, reinforced, would be able not only to capture the power but to hold it. Trotsky in America, whither he had been deported from Europe, writing for a Russian emigre paper, was making identical analyses based on the theory he had so pertinaciously maintained against all comers for twelve years.


We shall go in some detail into the course of the Russian Revolution. As Lenin told the delegates to the Second Congress of the International, the great theses which were laid down during those early congresses were but the heritage of Marx and Engels enriched by the revolutionary experiences of the Bolshevik party, particularly in 1905 and 1917.

Under the strain of the imperialist war, Russia, the weakest Capitalist State, had cracked first. As usual the cracks had begun from above. Not only were the Liberal bourgeoisie hostile to the incompetence of Tsarism, but Tsarism, owing to the crisis, was itself split, and one section had murdered Rasputin, the guiding star of the other. But all the ruling classes feared the proletariat of Petersburg, Moscow and the revolutionary towns in the south. The Liberal bourgeoisie were willing to criticise Tsarism but dreaded the consequences of overturning it. Thus they merely made their own overthrow the more certain and complete. In March the workers, led chiefly by unknown Bolsheviks who had been through 1905, had read the Bolshevik daily paper and Lenin’s writings, came out into the streets, and with the infallible instinct of masses in revolution set themselves to win over the soldiers. By standing their ground before the charges of the Tsarist police and the Cossacks they showed the revolutionary elements in the army that this was not a demonstration but a struggle for power, which they could join with the hope of ridding themselves of the than on the civilian masses. The revolution triumphed and the workers and soldiers, remembering 1905, immediately elected a council of representatives of the factories and of the soldiers–the Soviets. The workers, in gratitude for the help of the army, gave a great number of deputies to the soldiers, and these, politically inexperienced, elected chiefly Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, members of that party which had long claimed to represent the interests of the peasants. An Executive Committee consisting chiefly of Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries was elected.


The Menshevik view of the place of the bourgeoisie in the Russian Revolution we know. The Social Revolutionaries shared it, Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries being determined believers in democracy. So that with the proletariat and the soldiers behind them, with the whole force of the Russian people in their hands, the Executive Committee of the Soviet, some of them men who had suffered hard labour under Tsarism and had shown conspicuous personal bravery and courage, could do no better than seek out a committee of the Tsarist Duma and offer the Government to a group of landlords and industrialists, who were quaking with fear at their helplessness before the revolution. All that these democrats asked in return was freedom to make propaganda. By this means they would urge" the Government and "bring pressure to bear" upon it.

The revolutionary workers especially those of the Vyborg district, the proletarian centre of Petersburg, were bitterly angry when they heard what had been done. So hostile were the workers to the propertied classes that they refused to allow any member of the Soviet to participate in the Government. Kerensky, from his reputation as a radical lawyer, had been elected a member of the Soviet, but broke Soviet discipline to gain the highest ambition of this kind of politician–a place in a bourgeois Government. STALIN AND OTHER BOLSHEVIKS FOLLOW THE MENSHEVIKS

All this was astonishing enough. But the history of the Social Democracy since the war shows that this cowardice is organic. What was far more astonishing, and is of enormous significance for the history of the Third International, is that the acknowledged leaders of Lenin’s party, men who after his death were to play a dominating part in shaping the policy of the Soviet Union and of the International, took up an almost identical position with the Menshevik Executive Committee. What Lenin meant to Bolshevism, unpalatable as this may be to some Marxists, is proved by the fact that not a single Bolshevik leader, in a party trained to lead the workers, could give the correct lead until Lenin came. Stalin and Kamenev, coming to Petrograd from Siberian prisons, voted for the manifesto which promised the support of the Russian Revolution to the Entente. Misusing Lenin’s doctrines of control from the centre, in the manner which had always kept Trotsky hostile to it, they exercised their authority as members of the Central Committee, removed Molotov and Shliapnikov, the editors of Pravda, the Bolshevik daily paper, and took over the direction themselves. Pravda despite sentimentality and confusion had been vaguely following Lenin’s instructions to refuse any support to the Capitalist Provisional Government. The revolution had merely put another Capitalist Government into power; the revolutionary Social Democracy would seek to overthrow it. Stalin and Kamenev therefore did not have the responsibility of finding a policy. It was there already. But they reversed Lenin’s policy, and under their direction Pravda promised to support the Provisional Government in so far as it carried out the policy of the Executive Committee of the Soviet, composed for the most part of Lenin’s lifelong political enemies, who no sooner had the power than they ran to give it to the bourgeoisie. Lenin’s years of insistence on the international nature of the revolution, his long struggle against the Mensheviks as being penetrated by bourgeois ideas leading inevitably to nationalism and subservience to the bourgeoisie, all had passed them by. The international proletariat for Stalin then, as to-day, was not a living reality, but a shadowy abstraction. It proves once more that a purely intellectual conviction of international revolution is a rare thing among men, that Lenin was Lenin precisely because of this conviction, and that without him there would not have been in March 1917 that combination of organisation and Marxism which led the Russian workers to victory.

But what is so difficult for intellectuals to understand is the natural instinct of revolutionary workers. In the course of class-struggle against their employers they accumulate such hostility that at moments when the struggle reaches open warfare, the support of their own bourgeoisie is impossible and they turn instinctively to internationalism. It is this instinctive internationalism to which theoretical Marxism must give organisation and direction. To the Menshevism of Stalin and Kamenev the Petersburg workers reacted violently. They demanded the expulsion of Kamenev and Stalin from the party. The committee of the Petrograd Bolsheviks protested to the Bureau of the Central Committee of the party. The former editors were reinstated with the new-comers as associate editors. [7] Lenin, caged in Geneva, raged furiously at this betrayal. What would have happened if he had never been able to leave there? Despite his political backwardness Stalin, as future events were to show, was, after Lenin, the most powerful personality in the Bolshevik party. He retreated after the rebuff administered by the Petrograd workers; but at the session of March 29 of the party conference Stalin urged support of the Provisional Government. "In so far as the Provisional Government consolidates the advance of the revolution, to that extent we support it; but to the extent that the Provisional Government is counter-revolutionary, support of it is inadmissible." He recommended at that same session support of the Kraskojarsk Resolution, which called for support of the Provisional Government in so far as it carried out the wishes of the people. The revolution was a month old. Stalin and Kamenev were still hankering after the Miliukov Government. Tseretelli, one of the Menshevik leaders of the Soviet, made a proposal of unity to the Bolsheviks. Stalin was in favour. "We ought to accept. It is necessary to make precise proposals as to the lines on which we can unite. Unity is possible along the lines of Zimmerwald-Kienthal." Molotov expressed doubts. Stalin silenced him. For Stalin the gulf which separated Lenin’s view of the future development of the revolution and the Menshevik view was of no significance whatever. "There is no need to run to meet or to forestall disagreements. Without disagreements, there is no party life. In the bosom of the party we shall overcome the minor disagreements." [8] He had then been a member of the party some fifteen years. The fierce implacable Bolshevik, the revolutionary of the school of Lenin, the man of steel, all this is pure myth. Stalin is implacable, but against rivals in the party. From 1917 to the present day, whenever faced with a choice between the international proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the test of the revolutionary leader, he has always chosen the bourgeoisie. Nor was he alone; a majority of the old Bolsheviks was with him. They defended this reversion to Menshevism by sticking to Lenin’s old formula of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. The revolution was a bourgeois-democratic one, and could go no further. Any step beyond would lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat, which was the Permanent Revolution of Trotsky.

The result of this was an immense confusion in the Bolshevik Party. The Mensheviks, at first frightened of Lenin’s insistence that the necessity to overturn your own Government still remained, now rejoiced openly at this new commonsense and unexpected moderation in the Bolsheviks. In the more backward provinces Bolsheviks and Mensheviks drew closer together. At the very end of March, as we have seen, at their All-Russian Conference, the Bolsheviks voted for a resolution supporting the Provisional Government.


Lenin arriving in Petrograd in early April recognised quite clearly that not only the deputies in the Soviets and the petty-bourgeoisie, but the rank and file of the masses shared the illusions of those whom the revolution had lifted to power. They had to be won for the international Socialist revolution. For the time being it was enough to consolidate his own party. He was confident that he could win the Bolshevik workers of Petrograd and through them bring to heel "those old Bolsheviks who already more than once have played a sad role in the history of our party by stupidly repeating a formula learnt by heart instead of studying afresh the new actual situation." He knew them well. Zinoviev had worked closely with him for years, and from August, 1914, had assisted in all his writings on the War, but he was no sooner in Petrograd than he edged over to Stalin, Kamenev, Kalinin and the others. But as later years were to prove they were no match for Stalin, far less for Lenin. When Lenin put forward his policy, the majority of political Petrograd, from the members of his Central Committee to the British Ambassador, thought him quite literally mad. But in one month the party had adopted his policy. He redrafted the programme, and to emphasize the break with everything Menshevik he proposed to change the name of the party from the Russian Social Democratic Party to the Communist Party of Russia.


The revolutionary situation had arrived and he now had his party ready, organised and disciplined, the fruit of his long struggle from 1903. Marxists believe in the predominant role of the objective forces of history, and for that very reason are best able to appreciate the progressive or retarding influence of human personality. For the moment it is sufficient to state our belief that without Lenin there would have been no October revolution, and another Tsar might have sat in the Kremlin.

Lenin fought for the slogan, "All power to the Soviet," of which his own party was but 13 per cent. He knew the Mensheviks too well to think that they would ever do anything else except "urge" and "bring pressure to bear" on the Provisional Government. But, if the Bolsheviks knew that, the masses did not know it, and merely to tell them was not sufficient: they would have to see it for themselves. Therefore, "All power to the Soviet," and let the leaders expose themselves. For the time being, "patiently explain, in simple language." Among all the millions of Russia the Bolshevik Party in March was only 25,000 strong; [9] in the Putilov works of 30,000 men, the heart of the Russian Revolution, there were only thirty Bolsheviks. But they had at their head a master in the art of insurrection, and the discipline and cohesion of the party he had built up was such that from him through his party to the Russian people radiated all the wisdom and knowledge and insight which he had learnt from his masters and developed in his profound studies of history and of revolution. But the process was not one-sided. From his party, rooted in the factories, the Trade Unions, wherever there were groups of workers, came back to him the moods of the masses and the stages they had reached in understanding the real development of events. In April he proposed a demonstration–to test the feeling and temper of revolutionary Petrograd. It showed him that the moment was not yet. The masses still trusted in the leaders of the Soviet, and the power of the Soviet rested on the masses. He therefore repudiated the very thought of insurrection, for no workers’ party could preach insurrection against revolutionary workers. When a working woman helped him on with his coat and said laughingly that, if he were Lenin, she would help to murder him, he pondered long and deeply over this manifestation of working-class feeling. Near the end of April some of the Bolsheviks raised the slogan of "Down with the Provisional Government." Lenin checked them sternly. The masses were not ready yet to take action on such a slogan, and if advanced it might lead to adventurism and the disorganisation of the more advanced workers. And day by day, as he knew it would, the Provisional Government exposed itself and the temper of the people rose. It would not take steps to give the land, it would not stop the war but organised an offensive "in defence of the revolution." The Capitalist Government would not take the drastic measures against Capitalism necessary to feed the population. Instead the capitalists profiteered, prices soared, strikes spread, the capitalists replied with the lock-out and sabotaged whatever feeble measures the Government proposed for the improvement of the situation. Under the pressure of the masses and its incapacity to solve the problems of the day, the Provisional Government began to break, and strengthened itself by bringing in members of the Executive Committee of the Soviet. Thus Kerensky, ready to go on with the war and not prepared to touch property, and therefore acceptable (for the time being) to the bourgeoisie, full of revolutionary phrases and therefore acceptable to the awakening but as yet politically unconscious masses, was of necessity forced to higher and higher power. Another source of confusion for the Provisional Government and the Second Internationalists of the Soviet was the national question. Second Internationalists of all sorts combine an indefatigable capacity for passing resolutions on the self-determination of nations with a readiness to support their own bourgeoisie in keeping in subjection Indians, Egyptians, Africans, Irish, Palestinian Arabs, Chinese and Moors. The self-determination of these Socialists is limited very strictly by the needs of their own Capitalism. Tsarism held in subjection parts of Poland, Finland, Georgia and numerous other subject nationalities. Lenin had maintained as a general principle the rights of all small nations to self-determination, even to the extent of splitting away from the Tsarist empire. The March revolution proclaimed liberty; the subject nationalities interpreted this liberty to mean liberty to govern themselves as they pleased. The Provisional Government, representing Russian Capitalism with powerful interests in all these countries, understood this liberty to be strictly subordinated to the Russian imperialism which had changed its name but not its nature. Between Finland, Georgia, etc., and the Provisional Government violent conflicts arose. The leaders of the Soviet, just like their counterparts in Western Europe, gave national freedom in words but in deeds supported the Government. The Bolsheviks supported the demands of the subject nationalities, fought for them and gained the interest and support of the nationalist masses.

By July the workers and soldiers and sailors, maddened by the continuance of the war that they had made a revolution to stop, and the incapacity of the Government to substantiate the promises of the revolution, marched to the Executive Committee and demanded "Down with the minister Capitalists!" They were ready to seize power that day. Lenin and the Bolsheviks knew that they could hold Petrograd, but that the country as a whole was not yet ripe. Yet the masses were on the streets and ready for action. The party, as a party, must put itself at the head of the demonstration, but only in order to prevent the workers making the mistake of seizing power too soon. There was a serious clash, there was shooting, and the movement swung backwards. "Now they will shoot us down one by one," said Lenin, "This is the right time for them." But decayed classes cannot produce men and parties able to act in such a situation. Yet Kerensky’s Government, with Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries in it, opened an attack on the Bolsheviks. The Bolshevik Press was smashed, Lenin and Zinoviev had to fly for their lives, Trotsky and other leading revolutionaries were put into gaol, and reactionary gangs beat up and murdered Bolsheviks in the streets. For the moment the situation seemed almost hopeless. The Executive Committee was triumphant at the apparent rout of the Bolshevik. But before he was arrested Trotsky had noticed hopeful signs in the canteen at Smolny, the Soviet headquarters. "The canteen was in charge of a soldier named Grafov. When the baiting of the Bolsheviks was at its worst, when Lenin was declared a German spy and had to hide in a hut, I noticed that Grafov would slip me a hotter glass of tea or a sandwich better than the rest, trying meanwhile not to look at me. He obviously sympathised with the Bolsheviks but had to keep it from his superiors. I began to look about me more attentively. Grafov was not the only one: the whole lower staff of the Smolny–porters, messengers, watchmen–were unmistakably with the Bolsheviks." Lenin and Trotsky had their eyes fastened on the masses; Tseretelli, Dan and Cheidze had theirs fixed on the bourgeoisie. It is the difference between the proletarian revolutionary and the bourgeois intellectual, between Marxism and Revisionism, between the Workers’ Front and the Popular Front, between Trotskyism and Stalinism.

Nothing now could change the situation but an insurrection. Lenin, not certain of gaining a majority of in the Soviet, therefore changed the slogan: the factory committees." There the influence of the Executive Committee would be less. But at this point counter-revolution appeared. Property, taking advantage of the reaction against the July days and the inevitable confusion of a Government half-liberal half-Socialist, was about to make its last desperate effort under the Cossack General Kornilov. Kerensky, bestriding the bourgeoisie and the proletariat like a paper-colossus, intrigued with Kornilov, but the negotiations breaking down at the last minute he turned to the Soviet, and it is here that we have the crowning stroke of Lenin’s strategic genius, the classical example of the policy of the United Front.


The Executive Committee of the Soviet were represented in the Government which was persecuting his party. Lenin dared not come out of hiding. Yet he called on his party to form joint committees of action with the Menshevik Soviet and fight side by side with them and with Kerensky against the counter-revolution. The letter in which he outlined the tactic shows his capacity for maneuvering without compromising his own position, his care that the masses should understand. In tactical skill as well as world-wide strategy his hand was equally sure.

"Even now, we must not support the revolution of Kerensky. It would be a failure of principle. How then, it will be said, must Kornilov not be fought?–Certainly, yes. But between fighting Kornilov and supporting Kerensky there is a difference.... "We wage and shall continue to wage war on Kornilov, but we do not support Kerensky; we unveil his feebleness. There there is a difference. That difference is subtle enough, but most essential, and it must not be forgotten. "In what, then, does our change of tactics following on the Kornilov rising consist? "In this: that we modify the form of our struggle against Kerensky. Without diminishing the least bit in the world our hostility, without withdrawing a single one of the words we have pronounced against him, without renouncing our intention to beat him, we declare that consideration must be given to the circumstances of the moment, that we shall not concern ourselves at the present with overthrowing Kerensky, that we shall now conduct the struggle against him in another way by emphasising to the people (and it is the people who are engaged in fighting Kornilov) the weakness and vacillalions of Kerensky. That we were already doing previously. But now it is this which comes to the forefront of our plan of campaign, and therein lies the change. "Another change: at this moment we place equally in the forefront of our plan of campaign the reinforcing of our agitation for that might be called ’partial demands.’ Arrest Miliukov, we say to Kerensky; arm the Petrograd workers; bring the troops from Krondstadt, from Viborg and from Helsingfors to Petrograd; dissolve the Duma; arrest Rodzianko; legalise the handing over of the big estates to the peasants, establish working-class control of cereals and manufactured products, etc. And it is not only to Kerensky that we should put these claims; it is not so much to Kerensky as to the workers, soldiers and peasants who have been carried away by the struggle against Kornilov. They must be carried further, they must be encouraged to demand the arrest of the generals and officers who side with Kornilov; we must insist that they immediately claim the land for the peasants, and we must suggest to them the necessity of arresting Rodzianko and Miliukov, of dissolving the Imperial Duma, of closing down the Rech and other bourgeois newspapers and bringing them before the courts. It is particularly the Left Social-Revolutionaries who must be pushed in this direction. "It would be erroneous to believe that we are turning away from our principal objective; the conquest of power by the proletariat. We have, on the contrary, got considerably nearer to it, but indirectly, by a flanking movement. We must at the very same moment agitate against Kerensky-but let the agitation be indirect rather than direct–but insisting on an active war against Kornilov. Only the active development of that war can lead us to power, but of that we must speak as little as possible in our agitation (we keep it well in mind that even to-morrow events may compel us to take power, and that then we shall not let it go). In my opinion, these points should be communicated in a letter (a private one) to our agitators, to our propagandists, training groups and schools, and to the members of the Party in general. ..."

And we have an unforgettable picture of Krupskaya supervising the duplication of these letters, scrupulous over every comma, so that the Bolshevik agitators might be able to put Lenin’s precise ideas clearly before the eager masses and weld them for the revolution.

Trotsky walked straight from prison to the Committee of the Soviet which had helped to put him there, in order to organise the defence of Petrograd. Kornilov’s force disappeared. Lenin, still in hiding, again offered to support the leaders of the Soviet if they would take the power from the Provisional Government. Lenin had early called for the arming and drilling of the workers, but still he hoped that these leaders would take the power without bloodshed, which they could easily have done. But they would not. Lacking Lenin’s faith in the international proletariat, they feared isolation and could only urge the Liberal bourgeoisie to do something while they warned the Bolsheviks against violence. Ramsay MacDonald during the General Strike testified as to his faith in the ancient British constitution. Tseretelli, even before Russia had a constitution, was prepared to abide by it. Ex-Prime Minister and ex-convict, the political type is the same. Only historical materialism, which sees these men as the product of their social environment, can charitably explain them.

The Kornilov episode, however, had made the masses see clearly what the Bolshevik party had preached so steadily and so patiently. The Bolsheviks gained a majority in the Soviets at last. Again the slogan was changed: All power to the Bolshevik Soviet. Lenin, studying carefully the situation all over Russia, judged that the moment was near. He called on the Central Committee to organise the actual insurrection. But the Central Committee, now that the moment was approaching, for which so much labour and thought had been expended and so much suffering heroically borne, wavered. Zinoviev and Kamenev were openly against, Kalinin said yes, "but in a year’s time." Lenin, still in hiding, threatened to resign and to appeal for insurrection over the heads of the Central Committee to the masses. He knew that the temper of the masses for an insurrection lasts over a period of weeks at most, sometimes only for a few days, after which it ebbs away. And he knew also that there was no question of a democratic republic for Russia. For once the spirit of the people, wearied by deception and disappointment, had subsided, the counter-revolution would grow stronger day by day, and end in the destruction of the revolution. The chance, if any, of a bourgeois-democratic republic (and that could only have been temporary) had been thrown away by the leaders of the Soviet when they handed the power to the Provisional Government. Hut many members of the Central Committee could not see this. Zinoviev and Kamenev carried their resistance into the open, writing against the insurrection in a non-Bolshevik paper. Zinoviev wrote against it in Pravda of October 20. This article was accompanied by an editorial note which stated solidarity with Zinoviev and Kamenev. Sokolnikov, one of the editors, stated that he had no part in it. The other editor was Stalin. The Central Committee was thrown into confusion. Kamenev resigned; he and Zinoviev were forbidden to carry on agitation against the policy of the Central Committee. Stalin opposed this and offered his resignation from the editorial board. The Central Committee at that critical time refused to accept it. What would these: men do when Lenin died, if they acted like this when he was merely in hiding?

But Trotsky, now a member of the party, other leading revolutionaries, and the bulk of the party and the Petrograd masses were unreservedly for the revolution and ready to follow. Lenin had his way. The insurrection achieved an almost bloodless victory in Petrograd; there was fighting later in Moscow and other regions in Russia, but on the first night of the insurrection, power was in Bolshevik hands. The next night Lenin broadcast a decree informing the peasants that all land was now the property of the State and to seize it and divide it among themselves pending legislation. And when, a few days later, the Commander-in-Chief of the army refused to obey his orders to make overtures for peace, he ordered the soldiers to shoot or bayonet their officers and fraternise with the Germans.


It may seem here that we have given too much prominence to Lenin. The foundation and maintenance of Bolshevism, the theoretical preparation for the Third International, the October revolution, we have made them centre around him. In all of them he was the driving force, theoretician and organiser. The October revolution is the beginning of twenty years of such tense history as no age has seen. Now Lenin, it is true, did not make the October revolution. We have pointed out and emphasised heavily enough the inevitability in history which enabled Marx and Engels to foresee the first world war, the revolution in Petersburg, the death of the Second International, the inevitable rise of a Third International. So far Historical Materialism. It was within those limits that the most gifted of individuals had to work. But Trotsky, who played so great a part in the revolution, has stated categorically: "You know better than I that had Lenin failed to reach Petrograd in April, 1917, there would have been no October revolution." [10] In addition to the fact of the revolution it might have been a failure or a success. Lenin ensured its success. Trotsky was capable of both the strategy and tactics. Could he have brought the party with him? It is doubtful. And without October the Third International might have taken many years to come. It might have taken a very different form. That the International came so quickly and in the way it did was due to the work of Lenin. He could not have done it without the party, but it was he who made the party. When he was in hiding, Trotsky led the Bolshevik Party, not only with immense vigour and executive skill, but with a brilliance of appeal and personality which not even Lenin could have equaled. As we have seen, his analysis of perspectives was more correct than Lenin’s. But though the actual revolution brought them together, Lenin to Trotsky on the theoretical appraisement, and Trotsky to Lenin on the organisational question (he joined the party in July), yet without Lenin it is, to say the least, extremely doubtful what road the Bolshevik Party would have ultimately taken after the March revolution. It is not only the road the party has taken since Lenin died which encourages us to think the worst, it is what they did even while he was there to watch them. In this short chronicle Stalin appears only as making grave mistakes. A chronicle ten times as large would have little else to add. Except that he delivered a report at the Sixth Congress when most of the other leaders were in hiding or out of Petrograd, it is difficult to find in chronicles of the time any trace of his share in the October revolution. [11] Not only were they incapable themselves; they could not recognise capability in other men. When Trotsky arrived in Petersburg in May, and was still outside the Bolshevik Party, Lenin, now having no quarrel with Trotsky over the Permanent Revolution, and remembering Trotsky’s work in 1905, proposed to the Central Committee that Trotsky should be made the editor of Pravda. The Central Committee refused. To Lenin’s urgent plea they replied with his own arguments against organisational unity–a unity they had been quite prepared to forget on the far greater question of the international revolution. They were many of them men of ability and character. Lenin’s superiority, the breadth of his spirit, his knowledge of men, his tolerance, enabled him to use them all. But who knows how far the judgment of his colleagues by so clear-sighted a man was responsible for his tenacious advocacy of central control? It is when we watch the role in 1917 of those who became dominant after Lenin’s death that we can see the germs of the future failures and ultimate collapse of the Third International. The absence of Lenin, different social relations in Russia, would bring out and fortify, not in new men, but in these reputed internationalists, those Menshevik tendencies which after fourteen years of preparatory work had to be crushed by Lenin, almost single-handed, in the very heat of the long-awaited revolution.


[1]No Lenin, no Bolshevism. What record is there of leading Bolsheviks who adopted this position? Trotsky did not, and opposed Lenin’s policy fiercely. Stalin has the lid clamped down on any views he may have expressed. Rakovsky opposed Lenin. Doubtless they were all "against the war," as millions of people are to-day.

[2] It was written by Trotsky.

[3]Only in the sense that the proletariat would lead it. The view that this would lead in Russia to the proletarian revolution with a Socialist content. Lenin at this time was still opposing as one of Trotsky’s heresies.

[4]Lenin’s Selected Works, Martin Lawrence, vol. iii., pp. 18-19. The quotation exactly expresses his limited conception of the Russian revolution even at this time.

[5] Italics his own.

[6] Italics his own.

[7] Shliapnikov, The Year 1917, Vol. ii, 1925. This whole period is dealt with comprehensively and with the necessary references in No. 46-47,.Jan.-Feb., 1933, Of La Lutte de Classes, the French Trotskyist monthly.

[8] March Conference of the Party. Session of April 1, p. 32. See La Lutte de Classes, Ibid., p. 31.

[9] One account says only 12,000.


[11] The curious reader is invited to get a selection of histories of the revolution (except those published in Russia since about 1927) and look up Stalin’s name in the index.


IT WOULD TAKE US TOO FAR TO TELL IN ANY DETAIL the history of the revolutionary movements in Europe after the war. Yet we shall have to consider the movement in Germany and to some extent in Austria to see how far Lenin’s expectation of international revolution was justified, how far his conception of the political party as necessary to the revolution was proved valid. It was to Germany that he looked most anxiously.

The obvious leaders of a revolution in Germany were Karl Liebknecht, and Rosa Luxemburg. If we confine ourselves here chiefly to pointing out their errors, it is simply because in the historical period which is approaching we have to bear in mind what caused the failure of such splendid intellectual gifts and revolutionary fervour. Their virtues we know, nothing that could be written here would exalt them further. Nor do we imply any reproach. We today who can point out where they failed know that what is so clear to-day, after twenty years of revolution and the works of Lenin and Trotsky, could not possibly have been as clear in 1919 and before. Yet it must be remembered that Lenin, who before 1914 had several sharp controversies with Rosa Luxemburg, nevertheless saw the Sahara that separated her and Liebknecht from the opportunist leaders of their party. In 1914, at the meeting of the Social Democratic Party which decided to vote for the war-credits, Liebknecht fought for three days and was defeated by seventy-eight votes to fourteen. He tried to convince the other thirteen to vote with him against the credits. Such a vote at the beginning would have exercised a powerful influence. They refused, and Liebknecht followed them. It is in crises like these that the individual quality of men tells.

Rosa Luxemburg, immediately after the treachery of the Social Democratic Party, proposed to issue an anti-war manifesto which should be signed by a number, however small, of leaders known to the workers. At once some of the left fell away. She called a small meeting at her house. Only seven came, and of these Clara Zetkin, Franz Mehring and herself alone were willing to sign.

Liebknecht did not yet see the necessity of a clean break, and to issue the leaflet without him was to make the workers ask why the name of the most widely-known of their militant leaders was not there. They decided to wait. Is it necessary to state that Lenin would have issued the manifesto alone, and set about building an organisation to spread his ideas? It is in this way that individual men make history. It was December that Liebknecht recognised his error and decided to vote against the war-credits. That month Lenin had a personal report on the situation in Germany. His first question was whether Liebknecht had made a clean break with the opportunists. He had not. But even his solitary vote and declaration had raised enthusiasm in the party and among the left section of the workers. He and Rosa Luxemburg began to issue illegal literature under the pseudonym of Spartacus. The Government mobilised Liebknecht in a labour battalion, but had to move him from place to place because wherever he went the soldiers gathered round him in crowds. The ground was fertile but the seed had been lacking.

Late in 1915 another group finally split off from the German party and voted against the war-credits. Its leaders were Kautsky and Bernstein, whose return to Marxism consisted in their being now "against the war," but nothing more. Later the Spartacists although they knew Kautsky and Bernstein and the vacillating centrist nature of these Independent Social Democrats, entered the new party, a mistake that was to have disastrous consequences.

For months Liebknecht had preached the negative "Peace with no annexations." It was only nearing Zimmerwald that he approached Lenin’s initial position that to lead the workers to expect a peace with no annexations except by overthrowing imperialism was hypocrisy or ignorance. By Zimmerwald Liebknecht had reached "Not civil peace but civil war"—"The main enemy is in your own country," and sent a letter embodying his views to that conference.

To Zimmerwald Rosa Luxemburg also sent theses calling for the new International. She differed widely from Lenin on many points of organisation, [1] she opposed the harshness of his democratic centralism, with very clear ideas as to the necessity of democracy and the participation of the masses in the Government. Rejected much too unceremoniously by Marxists because of Lenin’s criticisms, time has proved that her views foresaw only too well the dangers of excessive centralism and the glorification of the idea of dictatorship, but she was with him on the necessity for centralised control of the new International. On this question the Spartacists and the Independent Social Democratic group split sharply at Zimmerwald. Ledebour, the representative of the Independents, wanted, as centrists always do, an International in which each section could do exactly as it pleased, in other words, no International at all. Lenin pressed the Spartacists to break with these new allies. Rosa Luxemburg refused. She could not see the necessity of establishing a clear position and organisation of her own so that all could see what the Spartacists stood for, on this basis establishing contacts with all who were moving towards her position, and working for those sudden turns in the moods of the masses that the war was bound to bring.

The movement of the masses towards revolution was taking place day by day. A down-with-the-war meeting summoned by Liebknecht in May, 1916, brought 10,000 workmen into the streets of Berlin, and sympathetic demonstrations in many big towns in Germany. Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were arrested and imprisoned. They continued their underground work, hut the movement naturally suffered.


The revolution which came in Berlin on November 9, 1918 is still thought by many to have been nothing more than a spontaneous explosion of anti-war feeling. The bourgeois publicists, as usual, go out of their way to prove that every revolution always aims at everything else except socialising bourgeois property. The German Revolution was anti-war but it was much more than that.

There are periods in history when the events of a few hours or a few weeks exercise an overwhelming influence on the history of a continent for years to come. Such a period were the few weeks that followed November 9 and also, of even more importance, the few weeks that preceded that day. Lenin was ten thousand times right in the expectation that the Russian Revolution would unloose Socialist revolutions in Western Europe. The revolutionary workers of Berlin had prepared an uprising in October, 1918. They, comprising chiefly those key workers in any capitalist society, the workers in heavy industry, had been stirred by October, had organised a shop steward movement, and were aiming at a Socialist republic. But Lenin was more right than he knew when he had insisted on the necessity for a revolutionary party. He thought that the European revolutions might succeed without one. It was, on the whole, a justifiable assumption. What neither Lenin, nor for that matter, any man could have foreseen, was the incredible treachery of the Social Democratic leadership. With Capitalism defenceless they stepped into the breach on its behalf. But for them all Europe would have been Socialist to-day.

First Ebert, Scheidemann and others joined the Kaiser’s Government at a time when, if they had stood firmly against any entanglement with a war that at least was none of their making, the Government would have fallen. No one but these leaders of the workers could have deceived the workers. And they did it voluntarily. The Independent Social Democrats, with Kautsky and Bernstein on the right almost indistinguishable from Ebert and Schiedemann, and Ledebour on the left near Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, represented such a diversity of aims and views (it is always thus in a party without tight organisation and a clear programme) that they lacked all capacity for cohesive action, the life of a revolutionary party. Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg had delayed too long, and it was to this centrist party that the shop stewards perforce looked for revolutionary leadership. Even led as it was, this revolution, definitely prepared with definite aims, could not have failed to succeed, so rotten was the Government of the Kaiser. Who among the soldiers or sailors would have fought for it? These shop stewards after the revolution were powerful enough to seize the Executive Committee of the Greater Berlin Soldiers’ and Workmen’s Councils. They had wide support all over Germany. The masses would infallibly have followed them. The masses, without whose partial support and goodwill a revolution is impossible, do not revolt for Socialism or for Communism. They revolt against intolerable conditions or for some concrete issue, as the peasantry for land or against a war or to stop Fascism. In Lenin’s phrase, a revolution is made on the slogans of the day. The masses will follow whoever has the will and courage to lead the revolt and bring it to a successful conclusion; they will accept a programme and support it so long as the political actions of the leaders are progressive and in harmony with their general aspirations. The Socialist measures which the shop stewards planned would have been backed by the demand for Socialisation which was so widespread in Germany in 1919. The possessing classes were powerless. There was the question of Entente intervention. We shall deal with that later. It is sufficient to say here that a revolution which waits to be guaranteed from hostile capitalist interference will never take place.

But as history would have it, this revolution, aiming at a Soviet Republic in Germany, was accidentally forestalled by the mutiny at Kiel. And this mutiny, already very different in aim from the other, was safely side-tracked by the Social Democrats. The Social Democrats to-day try to say that they acted as they did in Germany after November, 1918, because the people were merely anti-war and did not want Socialism. They lie. Ebert had seen the revolution coming. He could have put himself at the head of it and declared for Socialism. But he feared the Socialist revolution. He therefore conspired with Prince Max of Baden, and these two prepared in advance a policy which would switch the revolutionary fervour of the masses into harmless channels—a kind of Popular Front manoevre. When the mutiny broke out at Kiel, Ebert, primed for treachery, went down to interview the sailors. Skilfully putting himself at the head of the mutiny he and his circle appeared to the great millions as leaders of the very revolution they had been preparing to stab in the dark. Now that it had broken out they directed it into purely political channels, against the Kaiser, and succeeded ultimately in strangling it.

There was no revolutionary political party in Germany known throughout the length and breadth of the country. It was not until December 30, 1918, that the Spartacists split at last with the Independent Social Democrats. At their conference in January, the nearest approach to a revolutionary party, they had less than a hundred delegates. It had proved impossible to build an organisation during the heat of the conflict, and in addition to this organic weakness, at every crisis the two on whom so much depended acted in exactly the opposite way to which Lenin acted in similar crises. They had no control over the party, for the party had not yet learnt their value by individual experience. They had had no time to educate their followers in the very elements of Marxism. Not only the objective situation, but Lenin’s authority and prestige, had enabled him to swing the party very quickly round to his own views in 1917· Lenin would have fought for independence, but also for a common agreement with the obvious revolutionary force in Berlin—the shop stewards’ union. He would have taken what terms he could and trusted to events to bring them to his side. But the anarchist tendencies of the Spartacists frightened the shop stewards and the necessary alliance between them and the Spartacists did not take place. Liebknecht was against taking part in the elections. Rosa Luxemburg was in favour. The party decided against, 62 votes to 23. The leaders of the shop stewards were definitely in favour of revolution, but not of adventurism, and we recall here again Lenin’s admonitions to his party and the workers in April against the premature slogan of "Down with the Provisional Government." On the one hand is Lenin, master of tactics and able to carry them out through his organisation, relatively small but powerful in its cohesion. On the other we see two highly gifted revolutionaries, able, honest and fearless, widely-known and respected, but unable to make headway against the tendencies of every type which surrounded them. They lacked the organised party and the training and experience which the building of the party would have given to them as well as to the members.


The Social Democrats who formed the Revolutionary Government were, as always, afraid of the people, and looked instinctively to the bourgeoisie. In the inevitable clashes of that uncertain time they compromised themselves so completely with the discredited German generals that on December 6, not a month yet after November 9, one of these actually attempted a counter-revolution with the aim of putting Ebert at the head of the Government. The counter-revolution so soon after the revolution startled Germany. It was the opportunity that a revolutionary party expects, foretells and prepares to seize, though few could have foreseen that so-called Socialists would turn counter-revolutionary so quickly. There was a mass swing of opinion against Ebert, and on January 5 the crisis came to a head over the dismissal of a left-wing Independent, Eichorn, the Berlin Chief of Police. For the moment Independents, Spartacists and shop stewards formed a bloc and called the workers into the streets.

The response was magnificent. There were arms to be had and trained fighters in thousands among the workers. On January 6, the next day, a hundred thousand revolutionary workers again filled the streets of Berlin. But even then none of the three groups of leaders knew its own mind. Some were thinking only of a demonstration, others of revolution. Fighting began without any preconceived plans. In this action the Spartacist group was as bewildered as the other two. And yet despite all this confusion they could have held, and very nearly did possess themselves of, the power that day. [2]

The Government fled for refuge to a private house, and the Chancellor’s palace, the seat of government, was open to the revolution. Usually it is only by desperate mass fighting and barricades that a section of the army, refusing to shoot its own people any more, massacres its officers and comes over to the side of revolution, giving point and edge to the weight of the masses. In this action, even before the fighting, the soldiers, sailors and police in Berlin were neutral. But the revolutionaries, lacking all organisation and leadership, instead of installing themselves in the traditional seat of power and making themselves a Government in the eyes of the masses, directed their main attention to seizing newspaper offices of rival political parties. Not many revolutions could have recovered from such an error. For the German Revolution, deflected from the start, the mistake was fatal. Yet even when the movement had begun to disintegrate the Government dared not remain in Berlin and had to move to the suburbs. And to crush the revolution Noske had to go to the German junkers, who joyfully took the opportunity of destroying the extreme left.

It can be urged that a party and leaders of Lenin’s type only arise on a background vastly different from that of pre-war Germany. That can be freely granted, but the argument should not be allowed to stifle the consideration of all other possibilities. We have seen that without Lenin much the same charge in all probability would have been made against similar indecision and inexperience in the Russian Bolshevik Party. We have seen Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, in 1917. We shall see them again. The lessons of history are there to be learnt by all men. The Russian Revolution of 1905, the causes of its failure, Lenin’s views about organising revolution, all were the subject of heated discussion by Rosa Luxemburg and the left-wing of the German Social Democracy. Kautsky, destined to prove himself one of the most reactionary of Social Democrats, had been Lenin’s master, and quoted by him as such for years until he ratted in 1914. Marx and Engels had worked out a complete armoury of tactics nearly seventy years before. In the years before 1916, when revolution seemed dead in Ireland, James Connolly had studied the history of every revolutionary movement in Europe, preparing for the moment to overthrow British Imperialism in Ireland. The discipline and organisation of his Irish Citizen Army was in its own way quite comparable to that of the Bolshevik Party. We need pursue the subject no further except to state the last and greatest of the mistakes that Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg made. When the revolution was finally crushed they could have escaped, but remained and were murdered, the murderers being openly incited by the official Social Democratic paper Vorwaerts. It was the greatest mistake of all. Liebknecht was not thoroughly a Marxist, and he had defects of character which might have impeded his development. But for Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg was an eagle, and Lenin did not throw bouquets. 1919 would have been to them, certainly to her, what 1905 had been to Lenin. And, equally important, being head and shoulders above all in the Third International except Lenin and Trotsky, they and they alone could have prevented the corruption from Moscow of the German party leadership which began during Lenin’s last illness and ended in the ruin of 1933.


It was the Social Democratic leadership that killed the European revolution in 1919. To prove this finally we shall let one of these, the Austrian Otto Bauer, speak for himself.

Before the war the Austrian Social Democrats had a great reputation for Marxist learning. Like their English counterparts of to-day they were advocates of freedom, independence of nations, and all that is included in Socialism, but collaborated willingly with the suppression of the subject peoples by the Austrian monarchy. They invented a special theory wherein the economic and political oppression of subject nationalities was compensated for by unity of culture (or its independence—which it was is not important). Czechs, Serbs, Slovenes and Slovaks were as necessary to Austro-Hungarian Capitalism as Indians, Egyptians and Africans to British Capitalism. Like their counterparts in Britain, these servants of the bourgeoisie acquiesced in any action of their masters which allowed them to bargain with employers about wages and make speeches in parliament urging the Government and bringing pressure to bear. Every day when the Emperor Francis Joseph read their paper, Wiener Arbeiterzeitung, he used to say, "They reason very sensibly, but what do they want of me?"

When war broke out Austrian Social Democracy unreservedly placed its influence on the masses at the disposal of the military authorities. They were men of war until the mood of the working-classes began to change. After the February revolution in Russia "the revolutionary ferment made itself felt more and more in the ranks of German-Austrian workers." The Austrian Social Democracy felt that if a revolution was on the way they had better take charge of it. But they did not yet know how things would develop. So they played both sides. "If we wanted to address the masses openly, we had to remain within the limits of censorship; we could not speak openly of revolution, we had to speak of it in some such terms as the complete ’victory of democracy,’ ’convocation of the Constituent Assembly’; we could not openly bring forward the slogan of the disintegration of Austria, but had to use such expressions as ’there can be common government for all those who agree to it of their own free will.’ " [3] Thus one of the leaders of these despicable timeservers. Otto Bauer had been a war-prisoner in Russia, and was released by the February revolution. Of the Russian Revolution he wrote in 1920: "For the first time the proletariat has assumed power in a great state....The Capitalist world is trembling..... With the help of cannon and howitzer.... the international bourgeoisie makes war on the proletarian revolution. But all this makes the hearts of the proletarians of all countries beat in unison with the heart of the Russian proletariat." [4] His own heart, however, beat with the heart of Austrian Capitalism. The proletarian dictatorship in Russia was possible, he argued, owing to the numbers and backwardness of the peasantry. For Europe there was no possibility of any such thing. In 1920 he propounded a new brand of Revisionism tinged with Guild Socialism by which, peacefully and by parliament, the proletariat would establish Socialism. Meanwhile, immediately after the war, Otto Bauer, Fritz Adler and the other leaders set themselves with might and main to prop the collapsing bourgeoisie of Austria. When Germany was on the verge of defeat, eleven days before Poland was declared an independent State, ten days before the Czech National Assembly put forward its demand for a Czech Republic, Austrian Social Democracy, seeing that the oppressed nationalities could not possibly be held in subjection any longer, declared boldly for the national independence of all the German regions in Austria. This Bauer called "a revolutionary act." When the Emperor Charles had informed William II that he would make a separate peace and a truce within twenty-four hours, and after Croatia, Slovakia, Dalmatia and Serbia had been amalgamated into an independent State, with the whole Austrian structure crumbling to ruins, the Austrian Social Democracy then called for a revolution, Social Democratic brand. "On the battlefields of the Balkans and of Venice the revolution smashed the iron mechanism which hindered its development. In the meantime we in the rear could make revolution without using violence." [5] Meanwhile, day after day, the soldiers and enormous crowds of workmen demonstrated in Vienna. The workers were ready to seize the power. "Every newspaper brought news of the struggle of the Spartacists in Germany, every speech gave information of the glorious Russian Revolution, which by one stroke had put an end to all exploitation. The masses who had recently witnessed the downfall of a strong empire had no suspicion of the strength of the Capitalist Entente. They imagined that revolution would spread like wildfire through the victorious countries. ’A dictatorship of the proletariat!’—’ All power to the Soviets!’—nothing else was heard in the streets." The peasants were ready. "Peasants had also returned home from the trenches full of hatred for war and militarism, for the bureaucracy and for the plutocracy. They too welcomed the freedom which had been won; they welcomed the republic and the downfall of militarism. They rejoiced at the fact that local organs which were formerly under the administration of the representatives of the king-emperor were now under the administration of representatives of the peasantry. Together with the proletariat they imagined that the political revolution must needs bring with it a revolution with respect to property ownership." Without the party, without organisation, despite all the treachery to the cause of the Social Democrats, the revolutionary tide was flowing strongly; the German Social Democracy and the Austrian Social Democracy had the fate of European Capitalism in their hands. But the Austrian Social Democracy did not look to the masses. They had their eyes fixed on the bourgeoisie, on the Entente leaders and President Wilson. No one except these leaders could have checked the revolution, and like Ebert they had proclaimed their revolution "without violence" only to place themselves in a position where they could kill the mass movement. Bauer bursts with pride as he explains this. "The Social Democrats alone could put a stop to the stormy demonstration by means of negotiation and remonstrances. The Social Democracy alone could negotiate with the unemployed, could manage the People’s army, could restrain the masses from revolutionary adventures which might have been conducive to revolution. How deeply the bourgeois social order had been affected was best shown by the fact that bourgeois governments without participation of Social Democrats had become an impossible proposition." This was the world revolution that Engels had written about and Lenin was counting on. Come it did. Austrian Soviets developed. Bauer and his Socialist friends crushed them. Next door the Hungarian Soviet Republic begged for arms. They refused. But they arrested the Austrian Communist leaders and when a mass demonstration of Communists marched to the House of Detention to free the imprisoned leaders, these servants of the bourgeoisie shot them down. "The bourgeoisie could not have shown any resistance either in Vienna or in the industrial regions of Lower Austria; the police would have been quite powerless." There is no need to continue with the miserable record. They were afraid of France: with whom they sought to curry favour, they were afraid of famine, they were afraid of starting Socialism with a ruined economy. They were afraid of everything except fighting tooth and nail to preserve that system of property which they had sworn to destroy. The people trusted them because they believed that they really meant the things they had said so often and so long. Germany, Austria, Hungary and Russia, each proletarian dictatorship stretching out its hand to the other, and sending out a united call to the workers of the world for support. The Entente would have been powerless. After November, 1918, Lenin in a public speech offered the German Revolution a million Red soldiers and all the resources of Russia if the Entente should interfere with it. Ebert’s reply was to send German soldiers to the Baltic to do a little Social Democratic imperialism against what was Russian territory. All history was there to tell them, Russia was soon to show, that war-weary and tired as the masses were, under a strong and inspiring leadership, in the hope of a new society, they would fight again and endure threefold the very privations that had driven them in the first place to revolt. The Austro-Marxists stuck to Capitalism. Lenin and Trotsky had watched and waited and prepared all the years for the world revolution, knowing by 1919 that without it another Imperialist war would cripple civilization and kill millions, could see the new Socialist order striving to be born all over Europe, and a thin scum of bureaucrats with the ear of the masses holding up the historical process and throwing humanity a generation back. And what have they got for it? To-day in all Central Europe a dreadful tyranny reigns. The state that Lenin founded, isolated, is in deadly peril from the very forces they helped to maintain. In exile, their parties broken to pieces, living on sufferance (or on money saved and carefully put away) they continue to spread their pernicious doctrines and encourage Blum, Attlee, and those whose turn has not yet come, in the same dangerous folly and treachery which has ruined them. "Whatever happens the democrat comes forth unspotted from the most shameful defeat, just as he was a blameless innocent before he entered the battle; defeat merely fortifies his conviction of ultimate victory; there is no reason why he and his party should abandon their old outlook, for nothing more is requisite than that circumstance should come to their aid." Noske, Scheidemann, Adler, Bauer, Leon Blum, Attlee, Morrison, Bevin, Citrine, Lansbury. Marx knew them a hundred years ago. When the international working-class movement knows them the road to victory is clear. THE INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAT

The Hungarian Soviet failed; so did the Bavarian. This is not a complete history but a thesis, and their failure can be studied elsewhere. It was the German and the Austrian Revolution that would have saved them. Lenin’s expectations seemed to have failed. But only on the surface. Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party, Trotsky and the organisation of the Red Army, the heroism of the workers, the determination of the peasants to fight for the land, these things alone did not save Russia. Without them Soviet Russia would have collapsed. It was the international proletariat which was the decisive factor, and in a way that is not too clearly realised even up to the present time. It is not only what it did but what its masters feared it might do. Capitalism tried its hardest to crush the Workers’ State, but could not find the forces to do so. Of Europe in February and March, 1919, Louis Fischer says: "The whole continent seemed on the brink of a social upheaval that threatened to sweep all governments into the ashbin of history," [6] and he gives the evidence of the capitalist statesmen themselves. For Sir Henry Wilson, the soldier, the main problem was "getting our troops out of Europe and Russia, and concentrating all our strength in our coming storm centres, viz England, Ireland, Egypt, India. "

Lloyd George had almost as little doubt of the imminence of world revolution as Lenin had. "If a military enterprise were started against the Bolsheviki, that would make England Bolshevist, and there would be a Soviet in London." "We are sitting on the top of a mine which may go up at any minute," wrote Sir Henry Wilson. And again at a Cabinet meeting in London: "I emphasized the urgency of the situation, pointing out that unless we carried our proposals we should lose not only our armies of the Rhine, but our garrisons at home, in Ireland, Gibraltar, Malta, India, etc and that even now we dare not give an unpopular order to the troops and discipline was a thing of the past." The Council of Ten in Paris reported officially for January 21, 1919: "Bolshevism was spreading. It had invaded the Baltic provinces and Poland and that very morning they received very bad news regarding its spread to Budapest and Vienna. Italy, also, was in danger. The danger was probably greater there than in France. If Bolshevism, after spreading in Germany, were to traverse Austria and Hungary and so reach Italy, Europe would be faced with a great danger. Therefore something must be done against Bolshevism." Twenty years before Engels had written just that, but Marxism was not taught in European universities any more than it is taught to-day. But history goes on just the same. They had to do something against Bolshevism. But they could do little. The armies they sent mutinied. The Russian counter-revolution they supported was defeated on front after front. When they tried to support Poland as a last hope, Czechoslovak workmen stopped trains, searched them for munitions and, when they found them, refused to let the trains proceed. The workers in Danzig harbour refused to load munition ships which lay idle for days; the workers of Britain organised Councils of Action and threatened the British Government with revolution if British Capitalism did not cease its support of Poland against Russia. The man whom H. G. Wells had the impertinence to call "the dreamer in the Kremlin " had learnt in the works of Marx and Engels that the international workingclass movement was a living reality, had based his calculations fearlessly upon it, and had not been disappointed.


The vast stage of history at its most dramatic moments is full of large-scale comedy. The war was no sooner over than the leaders of the Second International set about with undiminished ardour to become international once more. They passed international resolutions for peace, quarrelled about war-guilt, and sent a memorandum and a deputation to Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Wilson, giving their idea of a just peace. British delegations took their part in resolutions demanding self-determination for small nations, what time British imperialism rained bullets Indians, Egyptians and Irish to of British rule. But now, to their former stock-in-trade, they soon added something else—a shrill faith in democracy. First a conference at Berne in February, 1919, and preliminary conferences of a Permanent Commission at Amsterdam in April and Lucerne in August, prepared for a General Congress in Geneva on February 2, 1920. But despite these antics and the old how of words all was not the same as before. The international Socialist revolution had begun, Soviet Russia was visible proof; and opposition to these Social Democratic futilities was strong, even among the participants at these preliminary conferences; great bodies of the workers were indifferent or hostile to these men without principle passing resolutions which meant nothing and ready at every turn to shoot down workers on behalf of Capitalism. In March, 1919, the Third International was founded and so strong was the response that it nearly destroyed the Second.

That the Third International was formed at that time was due primarily to Lenin. And the circumstances of its formation is yet another example of his grasp of revolutionary processes, his insistence that the business of leaders is to lead, to show the way, and then fight to carry the masses. After Kienthal the left-wing of the Second International, under the influence of the Russian Revolution had attempted to hold an anti-war conference at Stockholm. By this time they had powerful support among the workers of their own countries. Inside the ranks of the Second International, the movement for peace defied the efforts even of governments and was silenced by the only forces able to do it—the Social Democratic leaders themselves. The Stockholm Conference failed. In September the Zimmerwaldists held a small conference of their own and decided on the formation of a new international. But the second revolution in Russia made this decision a dead letter. German imperialism at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March, 1918, dismembered Russia, only to be treated in like manner when their English and French rivals got their chance at them. Then came the war of intervention and the invasion by the counter-revolution financed by allied capital, armed with allied arms. The new Workers’ State was blockaded and the Soviet armies suffered defeat after defeat late in 1918 and early in 1919. It was in the midst of this crisis that Lenin decided to call immediately for the new International. He, Tchitcherin, Sirola, (of Finland) and Fineberg, a member of the British Socialist Party, met one night in January, 1919, in the Tsar’s large bedroom in the Kremlin to discuss Lenin’s proposals. It was in one sense almost like the old meetings in holes and corners of the emigre days. The huge room was lighted by a single lamp, for electricity was precious in Russia in those days. The meeting was almost informal; Fineberg. had been asked to come only that morning. Russia was attacked within and without. In Europe the world revolution was being sabotaged by the Social Democratic leaders. The revolutionary workers were in confusion, being continually misled and deceived by the men who stood at the head of their outworn organisations. Lenin proposed the immediate formation of a new revolutionary International with a Marxist programme of its own which would make a decisive break with the Second International. The plan was agreed to and the manifesto and invitation broadcast by radio, Trotsky signing instead of Lenin for the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. The Congress was fixed to take place on February 15, but had to be postponed to March. Passports were refused, delegates were arrested, some lost their lives, and in the circumstances of the blockade very few were able to enter Russia. Furthermore, the democracy which the Second Internationalists were asserting so vigorously in speeches and resolutions did not extend to invitations for a revolutionary conference, and there was little information in Europe, and that inexact, as to the aims and scope of the conference. The only delegates from abroad were Eberlein, representing the Spartacists, Rutgers, representing the American League of Propaganda, and representatives from Sweden, Norway, Austria and some of the smaller countries. The other foreign parties were represented by persons already staying in Moscow. The most important question was whether the congress was an inaugural congress or only a preliminary conference for the purpose of discussing the ultimate formation of an international. And here Rosa Luxemburg nearly prevented the decisive step. She got the invitation at the beginning of January, 1919. As neither she nor Karl Liebknecht were able to leave Berlin at that moment, she proposed to Eberlein that he should go, and discussed with him what line he should take. She told him that even if there were only a few delegates the Bolsheviks would most certainly propose the immediate formation of the International. She, however, thought that it should be definitely founded, but only when Communist parties would have arisen out of the revolutionary movement of the masses, which was growing in nearly every European country. In particular it would be necessary to choose the moment for founding the International in such a manner as to accelerate the detachment of the revolutionary masses from the German Independent Party. She asked Eberlein to press for the point of view that this February conference should he a preparatory conference. A commission should be created composed of the representatives of the different countries, and the foundation congress should take place between April and June. Three days later Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were murdered. But the Spartacists endorsed her point of view, and Eberlein and Levine set out with an imperative mandate. Levine was arrested before they got out of Germany, but Eberlein reached Moscow.

He had an interview with Lenin and told him the views of Rosa Luxemburg and the Spartacus Central Committee. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg knew each other well, for Lenin said he was not surprised at what she thought and had foreseen this attitude. Her arguments, however, had only a certain tactical value. The International must be formed immediately. The revolutionary movement, the influence of the Russian Revolution on the advanced section of the proletariat, the recognition by great numbers of working men that the Second International was bankrupt, and above all the historic necessity of directing and coordinating the revolutionary actions of the proletariat, demanded it imperiously. Rut Eberlein was rigidly mandated, in 1918-1919 everything revolved around Germany; so that when Eberlein put his position before the fifty-seven delegates there was consternation. Only a few weeks earlier Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg had been killed. Even as the conference was going on Noske and the Social Democrats were using the old German army officers and shooting down the revolutionary workers. Yet Eberlein maintained this hesitant attitude as the final word of his party. Doubt and distrust seized the delegates. Could the German Revolution ever succeed if this was their spirit? Yet even Lenin and the Bolshevik delegation accepted Eberlein’s proposal, such was their respect for the German party, and for the first forty-eight hours the conference sat as a preliminary conference. But the delegates were dissatisfied. They felt that the decision was wrong, and on the evening of the second day Gruber, the Vienna delegate, cleared the air; "He was an agitator of the masses, full of talent. Electrified still more before his departure from Vienna by the deadly struggle of the few cadres of Austrian Communists against the social-traitors, clericalism, the bourgeoisie and militarism, Gruber with his colleague struggled for seventeen days against a thousand dangers to arrive at Moscow. They had travelled on locomotives and on tenders, on springs and on cattle wagons, they had tramped, had got by trickery through the front lines of Petlioura and Polish bands. See them finally in Red Moscow. Gruber hardly takes time to wash and runs to the Kremlin to be the sooner among his comrades, to help raise the standard of a new, a third International, truly revolutionary. Here among the delegates he speaks to them, describing in flaming words the struggle, the enthusiasm, the devotion of the Austrian comrades. What magnificent speaking! It is impossible to give any account of it. Moved as one was by it, it seemed that he gave forth magnetic waves, communicating to his listeners his boundless enthusiasm, his audacity, his faith in our movement. I had many opportunities later in Moscow to hear Steingart, [7] but never have I heard anything comparable to this first speech." [8]

The speech was followed by the formal proposition to found the new international. With the German five votes abstaining, the congress unanimously decided to found it at once. Lenin had almost been betrayed against his better judgment into a weak and vacillating position. THE SECOND COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

The congress issued a manifesto signed by Rakovsky, [9] Lenin, Zinoviev, Trotsky and Fritz Platten.

"...The national State, which gave such a mighty impulse to Capitalist development, has become too restricted for the continued development of the productive forces..... "The only means of securing the possibility of a free existence for the small nations is by a proletarian revolution which releases all the productive forces in every country from the tight grip of the national States, unites the nations in the close economic co-operation based on a joint social economic plan, and grants to the smallest and weakest nation the possibility of developing its national culture independently and freely without detriment to the united and centralised economy of Europe and of the whole world.... "The last war, which was certainly a war for the sake of the colonies, was also a war that was waged with the help of the colonies’ populations on a scale never before known. Indians, Negroes, Arabs, Madagascans, all fought in the European contingent—and for what? For their right to remain in the future the slaves of England and France.... "The liberation of the colonies will only be feasible in conjunction with the liberation of the working classes in the mother countries. Not until the workmen of England and France have overthrown Lloyd George and Clemenceau will the workmen and peasants, not only in Annam, Algiers, and Bengal, but also in Persia and Armenia, have a chance of an independent existence. In the more highly developed colonies the fight is already proceeding not merely under the banner of national liberation but with a social character quite openly expressed. If Capitalistic Europe forces the most backward parts of the world into the whirlpool of capital, Socialist Europe will come to the aid of the liberated colonies with its technique, its organisations, and its spiritual influence, to facilitate the transition to a methodically organised Socialist establishment.....

"The outcry by the bourgeois world against civil war and the Red Terror is the most abominable hypocrisy ever noted in the history of political fighting....

"Civil war is forced on the working classes by their mortal enemy. The working classes must return blow for blow, unless they would prove faithless to themselves and their future, which is also the future of all mankind. The Communist parties never try by artificial means to encourage civil war, but exert themselves, as far as possible, to shorten the duration of it, and, if it does become an imperative necessity, they endeavour to keep down the number of victims, and, above all, to secure victory for the proletariat.... "Fully conscious of the world-historical character of their undertaking, the enlightened workmen, as the first step in organising the Socialist movement, aimed at an international union. "In repudiating the vacillation mendacity, and superficiality of the Socialist parties, we—the united Communists of, the Third International—feel ourselves to be the direct successors of a long series of generations, heroic champions and martyrs, from Baboeuf to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. "Even though the First International foresaw the coming development and inserted a wedge, and though the Second International collected and organised millions of proletarians, still it is the Third International that stands for the open action of the masses and for revolutionary operations. "Socialist criticism has thoroughly stamped the bourgeois world-order. It is the duty of the International Communist Party to overthrow that order, and to establish instead the system of Socialist order. "We appeal to Labour men and women in all countries to join us under the Communist banner, under which the first great victories already have been won. "Proletarians in all lands! Unite to fight against imperialist barbarity, against monarchy, against the privileged classes, against the bourgeois State and bourgeois property, against all kinds and forms of social and national oppression. "Join us, proletarians in every country—flock to the banner of the workmen’s councils, and fight the revolutionary fight for the power and dictatorship of the proletariat!"

As is proper with the initial statement of a Marxist political organisation, the manifesto stands to-day, after nearly twenty years, far more valuable than when it was written. The analysis of Capitalism has been proved correct over and over again since 1919. Millions all over the world are far more ready for the call to-day, more will be to-morrow, even than in 1919. Yet to repeat those words to-day is Trotskyism. Men are imprisoned, tortured and shot in Russia for doing so, and outside Russia reviled without ceasing by the agents of the Third International. For this manifesto, and all that it means, the Third Internationalists have substituted as tattered and torn a collection of outworn political rags as can be found in the footnotes of any old Liberal school-book. A strong, free, and happy France; merry England; the Popular Front, with progressive individuals and right-thinking persons; and, despite the stench from the corpse of Abyssinia, the League of Nations and Collective Security. They dare not publish to-day the old documents of the International and for years have suppressed them, for many years it should be noted, and not since 1935.

But the men who wrote and signed and the men who voted for that manifesto meant it, and some of them are in exile to-day still fighting for the principles it maintains. At that first conference Trotsky, describing the Red Army, of which he had organised and which was fighting on thousands of miles of front, told the delegates: "And I can assure you that the Communist workmen who form the true foundation of the army conduct themselves not only as the army for protection of the Socialist Soviet Republic, but also as the Red Army of the Third International....

"And if to-day we do not even think of invading East Prussia—on the contrary we would be very much obliged if Messrs. Ebert and Scheidemann leave us in peace—it is yet true, that when the moment comes in which our brothers of the West will call to us for help we shall reply: Here we are, during this period we have learnt to handle arms, we are ready to struggle and to die for the cause of the world revolution!" And not only the leaders but the people of Russia were animated by the same spirit.

Through Moscow itself ran a fire of enthusiasm. Ever since October the idea of the Third International had caught on. Orators of various countries, ex-prisoners of war, spoke at crowded Moscow meetings about the Third International. The revolutionary workmen gave the name to clubs and organisations. Leaders and proletariat were convinced that the Soviet Union was merely the beginning of what the Third International and the international proletariat would conclude; and further that the existence of Russia as a Workers’ State depended upon the international proletariat led by the Third International.

As the news of the new International penetrated into Europe it was seen how right Lenin was in opposing Rosa Luxemburg’s idea of waiting. Millions rallied to the call, and many of the leaders of the Second International, fighting hard to avoid contact with the Third, had for the time being to abjure association with the Second. The Geneva Conference of the Second Internationalists, already put off from January to July, was a complete failure. Of the great countries in Europe only the German and the British were represented, and in addition to their urgings and pressures, resolutions about international peace and national self-determination, they added violent denunciations of the Bolsheviks as violators of their precious democracy. Henceforth that was their slogan. How tightly they hold on to it. It is not quite straightforward dishonesty, nor rhetoric, nor habit, nor ignorance, though there are solid elements of all these in it. The basis of it all is self-preservation, and when that is at stake men do not reason. Bourgeois parliamentary democracy was that form of political organisation which had brought the Social Democrats into being and on which they flourish. They can find a place in neither Fascism nor Communism. They are therefore democrats and will remain democrats, though the world fall to ruins around them.


[1]Rosa Luxemburg has recently fallen into disfavour with Stalin and the Stalinists. It is to her credit. A study of her life and work is badly needed in England.

[2]This is admitted even by G. P. Gooch, a Liberal historian, and Liberal historians as a rule only countenance revolutions when they are successful and at least 150 years old. See his chapter on the revolution in his book, Germany. See also F. Lee Benn’s Europe since 1914, 1930, p. 308: "If they had had determined leaders with clearly defined aims, they might have seized the city; but these they lacked."

[3] The Austrian Revolution of 1918, by Otto Bauer. See The Communist International, No. 16.

[4] Bolshevism or Social-Democracy? by Otto Bauer. See The Communist International, No. 16.

[5] The Austrian Problem of 1918, by Otto Bauer. See The Communist International, No. 16. All other quotations are from the same source.

[6] Louis Fischer, The Soviets in World Affairs, 1930. Vol. I, Chap. IV.

[] For obvious reasons revolutionaries have different names.

[8] B. Rheinstein, Sur la voie du Ler Congres de L’I.C. Dix Annees de lutte pour la Revolulion Mondiale, Bureaux d’Editions, Paris, 1929.

[9] Of the four Russians Lenin is dead, Zinoviev murdered by Stalin, Trotsky driven into exile by Stalin. Rakovsky, after years of exile, has "recanted," and after the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial, wrote (or signed) a denunciation of Trotskyism, in which he called Trotsky Fascist, unclean fellow, etc.

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