In offering us a dizzying leap into the unknown you consider it necessary to lean upon historical precedents. On the one hand you point to Britain, where the proletariat has ‘given shape to the class struggle by the formation of a broad party,’ and on the other to Belgium where a workers’ party has been formed by the coming together of social-democratic workers’ organizations. It is to Belgium — in fact not to Belgium but to twenty lines of Vandervelde’s book1 — that Comrade Shcheglo, another supporter of the sudden broad party like yourself, makes reference. Britain and Belgium; since when have these two countries become models of political development for us?
You take as an example in Britain the Labour Representation Committee, which, however, can in no instance lay claim to the role of the central committee of a workers’ party. It is a special organ, promoted for the most part by the trade unions, with the object of independent labour representation in parliament. The victory of the Committee at the last General Election2 has, without question, an enormous symptomatic meaning. The British proletariat, which had fallen into lethargy after the defeat of Chartism, awakens once again to political life. But from the Labour Representation Committee, after whose model we are supposed to build our own, it is a very long way to the party of the proletariat. This will be readily understood by anyone who takes into account the fact that British Social-Democracy has not entered this parliamentary organization of workers’ unions and groups. I am frankly amazed that you, a social-democrat, have not mentioned a single word on this point in recommending to us this new British ‘party’ as an example. Of course, you are not obliged to agree with the tactic of the British social-democrats. But in any case you are obliged to examine and consider it. We must accept that they are sufficiently competent in evaluating British conditions and sufficiently interested in creating a broad workers’ party to have serious grounds for not joining the Representation Committee.
Besides trades unions there belong to this committee: the Fabian Society3 with some 900 members and the Independent Labour Party4 consisting of 16,000 members. The latter is doubtless the left wing of the parliamentary organization of the British proletariat. And yet the Social-Democratic Federation at its last congress at Bradford (Easter 1906) rejected the idea of merging even with the Independent Labour Party, adopting Hyndman’s resolution in this connection. It is clear that these ‘details’ do not interest you in the least. A party with some million members lends itself to your attention, but I must divert your glance towards Social- Democracy which numbers only some twenty thousand members. Let me nevertheless dare to assure you that the incipient political self-determination of the British working masses owes itself in great part to the tireless propaganda of the numerically small British Social-Democratic party. And now when after years of partially fruitless efforts broad horizons are obviously opening up before it, it has preferred not to tie itself by organizational discipline to the mass of trade unionists still imbued with bourgeois prejudices, but to preserve its independence in the interest of making criticism and propaganda. The fact of the entry of the thirty independent Labour MPs into the House of Commons is, as we have already said, very noteworthy; but the behaviour of these MPs far from always answers the requirements of a class policy. The central organ of British Social-Democracy, Justice, has had in various connections to ask: ‘Just when will the Labour Party understand that forming an inseparable part of the present-day parliamentary machine does not lie within its tasks?’ One can be sure that the political development of the British proletariat will from now on proceed at a rapid pace — for the social-political conditions are extremely favourable — but British Social -Democracy will contribute far more to this process if it remains an independent vanguard, conscious and vigilant, than if it dissolves itself into a huge but infantilely helpless labour ‘party’.
And so, provided you are not blinded by your preconceived notion, you must draw conclusions from your unexpected excursion to Great Britain, which completely destroy your metaphysical constructions:
1) In spite of the fact that the proletariat by the objective conditions of its existence directs itself towards the social revolution, the very example of Britain shows that the political development of the working class far from always forms a logical ascent towards socialism; `pauses’ sometimes last, as you see, for several decades. Consequently the ‘destiny of history’ can by no means serve as an immediate guarantee for our leaps into the unknown and the indeterminate.
2) Britain’s example shows that Social-Democracy, while remaining by force of unfavourable historical conditions a narrow and almost sectarian organization, can still carry out its work by training numerous teachers of socialism on the one hand, and on the other facilitating outside its ranks the dissociation of the organized working masses from the bourgeois parties.
3) Britain’s example shows that even after the formation of an independent broad workers’ party, Social-Democracy can prove to carry out the greatest service to this party by not dissolving into it and preserving its full freedom of action for criticism and propaganda.
That is the situation with regard to Britain. I am afraid that you will ask me the question: but are our own social-political conditions quite as unfavourable for the rapid drawing together of a mass social democratic party as Britain’s? No, I would reply, of course not! But why then do you take as an example a country which cannot serve as an example to us and whose experience anyway proves the direct opposite to what you want to prove?
From ‘A Letter to Comrade Larin’ (dated 1st December 1906), published in In Defence of the Party (1907)
In Britain where the working masses have for long dragged along at the tail of the bourgeois parties, an acute sharpening of the class struggle is taking place at present. Colossal strikes of seamen, railwaymen, textile workers, and miners have over the past year shaken the whole economic life of the country and at every stage the question is being posed point-blank: who should own and dispose of the means of production? A clique of exploiters, or all society as a whole, organized in a fraternal Productive and consumer alliance? The British working masses, in the process of these titanic conflicts, are being fed with a revolutionary spirit and the ideas of socialism are making huge gains among them.
‘On May Day’ Pravda (Vienna), 23rd April 1912.
In the oldest capitalist country, Britain, May Day reflects in equal measure the national-possibilist nature of the class struggle of the British proletariat and the sectarian-propagandist nature of British socialism. Adopted by the trade unions, May Day has been assimilated as a conservative ritual of trade unionism, serving the cause of the propaganda of its immediate class tasks and scarcely rising to social-revolutionary generalizations. As a holiday of militant internationalism, May Day in Britain has remained not the act of a revolutionary working class but a demonstration by the numerically small revolutionary groups in the working class.
‘May Day 1890-1915’ Nashe Slovo, 1st May 1915.
There is unrest in Britain too. Lloyd George displayed great dexterity when it was a question of sticking a knife into his chief, Asquith. Idlers and simpletons had expected that as a result Lloyd George would smash the Germans at the earliest moment; but the unfrocked-priest minister who turned chieftain of the bandits of British imperialism proved incapable of performing the miracle. The population of Britain, like that of Germany, is becoming increasingly convinced that the war has got into a desperate blind alley. The agitation by opponents of the war is encountering an ever greater response. The jails are overflowing with socialists.
The Irish are ever more insistently demanding the implementation of Home Rule from a government which replies with arrests of Irish revolutionaries.
‘Unrest in Europe’, Novy Mir (New York), 15th March 1917.
At present the situation is not very different in Britain. Admittedly Britain is accustomed to stand aside from Europe. The bourgeoisie has brought the British people up to think of the continent as one thing and Britain another. The government of Great Britain used to intervene in the old European wars by supporting the weaker side with money, and sometimes part of the Navy, against the stronger, only until the moment that an equilibrium was established on the continent. The entire world policy of Britain has for centuries, comrades, consisted in this: dividing Europe into two camps but not allowing one camp to grow strong at the expense of the other. Ruling class Britain supports its allies like a rope supports a hanging man: that is, by drawing a noose around their necks as tight as possible in the form of all sorts of obligations, so as thereby to exhaust the strength not only of her enemies but also of her ‘allies’. But this time it did not turn out that way. Germany had developed far too powerfully and showed herself to be too mighty a country, and so Britain had herself to get mixed up and deeply involved no longer just with money but with meat and human blood. But it is said that ‘blood is a special juice’. This intervention the British bourgeoisie will have to pay for. … The privileged position of Britain, once fundamentally undermined by Germany’s competition, has disappeared forever. The British trade unionist used to say: ‘Here we don’t have militarism , I’m a free citizen on our island which is defended by the Navy. Here we have only a few dozen thousand volunteer sailors in the Navy and that’s it. ‘
Now, this ‘free’ proletarian of Britain has been seized by the scruff of his neck and thrown on to the territory of Europe while the war has caused a fearful increase in taxation and fearfully high prices. All this has undermined the old ‘privileged’ economic position, even of the upper layer of the British working class, to the very roots.
The more privileged that the British proletariat had earlier felt itself to be and the more haughtily it regarded itself, the more terrible the awareness of the catastrophe will be for it. Great Britain’s economy is devastated, ruined. A gigantic number of cripples and invalids — all these are consequences of the war. To think that after her victory over Germany Britain would be able to abandon her militarism or strictly limit it would be a grave mistake. Tomorrow Britain’s most powerful enemy will be the United States. There is already today a deep private antagonism between them. For the British proletariat there remain today only two possibilities: the degeneration of the economy and the working class or — social revolution.
To be sure, there exists a prejudice that the British working class supposedly lacks a revolutionary temperament. There is a subjectively nationalistic theory that the history of a nation is to be explained by national temperament. This is rubbish. That is what the superficial gossip-mongers of bourgeois origin who have only observed British people in the smart restaurants of Switzerland and France believe and write: they observe the so-called cream of British society, whose representatives have become corrupt and emaciated over the generations and lack both the energy and will to live, and set them up as representatives of the British nation.
But whoever knows the history of the British people and the British working class, the history of the English Revolution of the 17th century and then British Chartism of the 19th century, will know that the Englishman too has a ‘devil inside him’. There have been repeated occasions when the Englishman has taken up the cudgel against his oppressor. And there is no doubt that the time is near when he will take up his cudgel against the King, against Lloyd George, against his lords and against the cruel, cunning, clever and perfidious British bourgeoisie. And the first thunderclaps of the great storm can already be heard from the island of Great Britain.
a speech to the Voronezh Soviet, 18th November 1918 (On Guard Over the World Revolution).
… In that country (Great Britain], the ruling class of which is oppressing and plundering the whole world more than ever before, the formulae of democracy have lost their meaning even as weapons of parliamentary swindling. The specialist best qualified in this sphere, Lloyd George, appeals now not to democracy, but to a union of Conservative and Liberal property holders against the working class. In his arguments no trace remains of the vague democracy of the ‘Marxist’ Kautsky. Lloyd George stands on the ground of class realities, and for this very reason speaks in the language of civil war. The British working class, with that ponderous learning by experience which is its distinguishing feature, is approaching that stage of its struggle before which the most heroic pages of Chartism will fade, just as the Paris Commune will grow pale before the coming victorious revolt of the French proletariat.
Precisely because historical events have, in these last months, been developing their revolutionary logic with stern energy, the author of this present work asks himself: Does it still require to be published? Is it still necessary to confute Kautsky theoretically? Is there still a theoretical necessity to justify revolutionary terrorism?
Unfortunately, yes. Ideology, by its very essence, plays an enormous part in the socialist movement. Even for practical Britain the period has arrived when the working class must exhibit an ever increasing demand for a theoretical statement of its experiences and its problems. On the other hand, even the proletarian psychology includes a terrible inertia of conservatism in itself — all the more so since in the present case, it is a question of nothing less than the traditional ideology of the parties of the Second International which first roused the proletariat, and recently were so powerful. After the collapse of official social-patriotism (Scheidemann, Victor Adler, Renaudel, Vandervelde, Henderson, Plekhanov, etc.), international Kautskyism (the staff of the German Independents, Friedrich Adler, Longuet, a considerable section of the Italians, the British Independent Labour Party, the Martov group, etc.) has become the chief political factor on which the unstable equilibrium of capitalist society depends.
the preface (dated 29th May 1920) to Terrorism and Communism (1920).
Routinism among the summits of the labour movement in Britain is so ingrained that they have yet even to feel the need of rearming themselves: the leaders of the British Labour Party are stubbornly bent upon remaining within the framework of the Second International.
At a time when the march of events during recent years has undermined the stability of economic life in conservative Britain and has made her toiling masses most receptive to a revolutionary programme — at such a time, the official machinery of the bourgeois nation: the Royal House of Windsor, the House of Lords, the House of Commons, the Church, the trade unions, the Labour Party, George V, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Henderson — remains intact as a mighty automatic brake upon progress. Only the Communist Party -a party free from routine and sectarianism, and closely bound up with the mass organizations — will be able to counterpose the proletarian rank and file to this official aristocracy.
the Manifesto of the Second World Congress drafted by Trotsky and adopted at the Second World Congress of the Communist International, 7th August 1920.
It is quite probable that Britain will enter the epoch of proletarian revolution with a Communist Party still comparatively small. One can do nothing about it, because the propaganda of communist ideas is not ‘the sole factor in history. The only conclusion that flows from this is: that the working class of Britain — if through the criss-crossing of major historical causes it finds itself in the near future already drawn into an unfolding proletarian revolution — will have to create, expand and consolidate its mass party in the very course of the struggle for power and in the period immediately following the conquest of power; while, during the initial phase of the revolution, the numerically small Communist Party will — without tearing itself away from the mainstream of the movement, and by taking into account the existing organizational level of the proletariat and its degree of classconsciousness — seek to introduce the maximum of communist consciousness into the actually unfolding revolution.
‘On the Policy of the KAPD (dated 5th November 1920) Kommunisticheskii Internatsional, 7th June 192 1.
The mighty strike movement in Britain was shattered again and again during the last year by the ruthless application of military force, which intimidated the trade union leaders. Had these leaders remained faithful to the cause of the working class, the machinery of the trade unions despite all its defects could have been used for revolutionary battles. The recent crisis of the Triple Alliance furnished the possibility of a revolutionary collision with the bourgeoisie, but this was frustrated by the conservatism, cowardice and treachery of the trade union leaders. 5 Were the machinery of the British trade unions to develop today half the amount of energy in the interests of socialism it has been expending in the interests of capitalism, the British proletariat could conquer power with a minimum of sacrifice and could start a systematic reconstruction of the country’s economic system.
‘Theses on the International Situation and the Tasks of the Communist International’, drafted by Trotsky and adopted by the Third World Congress of the Communist International, 4th July 1921.
What is the meaning of the quotations from Marx adduced by Comrade Louzon? 6 It is a fact that Marx wrote in 1868 that the workers’ party would emerge from the trade unions. When writing this he was thinking mainly of Britain, at that time the only developed capitalist country that already possessed extensive labour organizations. Half a century has passed since then. Historical experience has in general confirmed Marx’s prophecies in so far as Britain is concerned. The British Labour Party has actually been built up on the foundations of the trade unions. But does Comrade Louzon really think that the British Labour Party, as it is today, led by Henderson and Clynes, can be looked upon as representative of the interests of the proletariat as a whole? Most decidedly not. The British Labour Party betrays the cause of the proletariat just as the trade union bureaucracy betrays it, although in Britain the trade unions approach nearer to comprising the working class as a whole than anywhere else. On the other hand, we cannot doubt but that our Communist influence will grow in this British Labour Party which emerged from the trade unions, and that this will contribute to sharpening the struggle of masses and leaders within the trade unions until the treacherous bureaucrats are ultimately driven out and the party is completely reformed and renewed. And we, like Comrade Louzon, belong to an International which includes the little Communist Party of Britain, but which combats the Second International supported by the British Labour Party that had its origins in the trade unions.
In Russia — and in the logic of capitalist development Russia is exactly the opposite of Britain — the Communist Party, the former social democratic party, is older than the trade unions, and created the trade unions. Today, the trade unions and the workers’ state in Russia are completely under the influence of the Communist Party, which is far from having its origins in the trade unions, but on the contrary created and trained them. Will Comrade Louzon contend that Russia has evolved in contradiction to Marxism? Is it not simpler to say that Marx’s judgement on the origin of the party in the trade unions has been proved by experience to have been correct for Britain, and even there not 100 per cent correct, but that Marx never had the least intention of laying down what he himself once scornfully designated as a ‘supra-historical law’? All the other countries of Europe, including France, stand between Britain and Russia on this question. In some countries the trade unions are older than the party, in others the contrary has been the case; but nowhere except in Britain, and partially in Belgium, has a party of the proletariat emerged from the trade unions. In any case, no communist party has developed organically out of the trade unions. But are we to deduce from this that the Communist International has orginated wrongly?
When the British trade unions alternately supported the Conservatives and the Liberals and represented to a certain extent a labour appendage to these parties, when the political organization of the German workers was nothing more than a left wing of the democratic party, when the followers of Lassalle and Eisenach were quarrelling among themselves, Marx demanded the independence of the trade unions from all parties. This formula was dictated by the desire to oppose the labour organisations to all bourgeois parties, and to prevent their being too closely bound up with socialist sects. But Comrade Louzon may perhaps remember that it was also Marx who founded the First International, the object of which was to guide the labour movement in all countries, in every respect, and to render it fruitful. This was in 1864, and the International created by Marx was a party. Marx refused to wait until the international party of the working class formed itself in some way out of the trade unions. He did his utmost to strengthen the influence of scientific socialism in the trade unions — as first laid down in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto. When Marx demanded for the trade unions complete independence from the parties and sects of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, he did this in order to make it easier for scientific socialism to gain dominance in the trade unions. Marx never saw in the party of scientific socialism one of the ordinary parliamentary democratic political parties. For Marx, the International was the class-conscious working class, represented at that time by truly a very small vanguard.
‘A Necessary Discussion with Communist Syndicalists’, Pravda, 21st March 1923.
Comrade Bukharin has told me that the British Labour Party has addressed to their government a proposal that the question of Georgia be inscribed as the first item on the agenda of the Genoa Conference. 7 If this information has been verified I recommend that the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions and individual trade unions pass a resolution along the following lines:
’The British Labour Party has been pleased to inspire the British capitalist government to intervene in the internal affairs of the Soviet Workers’ and Peasants’ Republics. We are not going here into the question of why it is that the British Labour Party confines itself to Georgia. In Russia too, in the Ukraine, in Azerbaijan and Turkestan and so on, the Mensheviks and their allies were expelled by the workers and peasants in the same way as they were in Georgia. We are, likewise, not going into the question of the motives and inducements which inspire the so-called British Labour Party in its attempts to facilitate the wrecking of the Genoa Conference for the benefit of the extreme interventionist wing of imperialism in Britain, France and other countries. If, however, the British government were to attempt to follow the path towards which the British Labour Party is trying to draw it, we categorically insist that our delegation shall put down on the agenda of the Genoa Conference the question of the liberation of Egypt, India and other colonies struggling heroically for their liberation. At the same time we consider it the paramount duty of the Communist International to redouble its efforts for the exposure of the Socialist hypocrites in Great Britain, who neglect their elementary duty to conduct, hand in hand with the insurgent masses of its colonial slaves, a determined struggle against British imperialism, and at the same time attempt to represent the overthrow of the Georgian bourgeoisie and its Menshevik agents as an act of military coercion.
This repulsive manoeuvre of the conciliators must be mercilessly exposed vis-a-vis the working masses of Britain.’
I am giving here not the text of a resolution but only the approximate outline of one. I think that we need to get a move on with this. The resolutions of the various unions as adopted could vary in their working. The more of them there are, the better. We shall be able to transmit them every day by radio. I recommend that this should be discussed by telephone without delay in order to speed things up. 8
A letter to the Politburo dated 9th February 1922. First published in The Trotsky Papers edited by J. Meijer and published by the International Institute for Social History, by whose kind permission it is here reproduced.
The following idea might also be included in the resolution of our trade unions about the proposal of the British Labour Party concerning Georgia: 9
’In requiring the removal from Georgia of revolutionary troops the British Labour Party is, by this token, leaving Georgia completely at the mercy of imperialism which, first in the shape of Turkish and German troops, and then in the shape of British troops, enjoyed unchallenged domination there prior to the Soviet revolution. In now requiring the withdrawal of the Red Army, is the Labour Party requiring the withdrawal of the British and French fleets from the Black Sea, from which the French and British fleets are undoubtedly threatening the independence and freedom of Georgia? Instead of curbing British imperialism the British Labour Party is striving to disarm, in the former’s interests, the revolutionary maritime countries in relation to which this same imperialism announces its rapacious claims.’
I am dictating by telephone only the main idea, not the text. I think that this idea will have importance as propaganda.
A letter to the Politburo dated 10th February 1922. First published in The Trotsky Papers edited by J. Meijer and published by the International institute for Social History, by whose kind permission it is here reproduced.
A few words on Britain. Here our Communist Party still remains a successfully functional educational and propaganda society but not a party, capable of directly leading the masses.
In Britain, however, the situation is taking shape or tending in a direction favourable to us, outside of the Communist Party’s framework — within the working class as a whole. Today we received a cable that Lloyd George’s government has resigned.
This was the only government older than ours. [Laughter]. We were considered to be the least stable among all the governments. This is Lloyd George’s polite gift to our jubilee, so as not to hurt our feelings. [Laughter.] It obviously means new elections in Britain. And new elections imply a struggle between the three basic groupings, which are: the Tories, the Unionists, and the Independent Liberals. What Lloyd George does personally is a subsidiary question. He may 90 either with the Tories or with the Independent Liberals, clasping the Labour Party’s right hand. His personal career is all that is involved here. Essentially the struggle will occur between the three groupings, and therewith chances are by no means excluded that a coalition of the Labour Party and the Independent Liberals may turn up in power. What this means hardly requires comment. The appearance of the working class in power will place the entire responsibility for the government’s actions upon the Labour Party; and will give rise to an epoch of British Kerenskyism in the era of parliamentarism, providing a favourable environment without parallel for the Communist Party’s political work. Should the Tories win (I hesitate to weigh the odds, but let us here assume they are favourable), 10 it would only signify a worsening of the country’s domestic situation; it would tend to sharpen the Labour Party’s opposition and would thereby bring about new elections very quickly, because elections in Britain can take place within a month or a few months, as has happened more than once in the past. In other words, the stability of the domestic political situation, which had been enhanced by the coalition headed by Lloyd George, is relegated to the museum with Lloyd George’s departure; and Britain is experiencing shocks and oscillations which can play only into our hands.
a report on the fifth anniversary of the October Revolution and the Fourth World Congress of the Communist International to the active membership of the Moscow organization of the RCP, 20th October 1922.
In Britain, the general elections are now taking place. Because of the collapse of Lloyd George’s coalition government they came sooner than expected. The outcome is still unknown.
There is a likelihood that the previous ultra-imperialistic grouping will be returned to power. But even if they do win, their reign will be short. A new parliamentary orientation of the bourgeoisie is clearly being prepared both in Britain and France. The openly imperialist aggressive methods, the methods of the Versailles Treaty, of Foch, 11 PoincarŽ, 12 and Curzon, have obviously run into a blind alley. France cannot extract from Germany what Germany hasn’t got. France in turn is unable to pay her debts. The rift between Britain and France keeps widening. America refuses to renounce collecting payments of the debts. And among the intermediate layers of the population, especially among the petty bourgeoisie, reformist and pacifist moods are growing stronger and stronger: an agreement ought to be reached with Germany, and with Russia: the League of Nations should be expanded; the burden of militarism should be lightened; a loan from America should be made, and so forth and so on. The illusions of war and defencism, the ideas and slogans of nationalism and chauvinism, together with the subsequent hopes in the great fruits that victory would bring — in brief, the illusions which seized a considerable section of the working class itself in the Entente countries are giving way to more sober reactions, and disillusionment. Such is the soil for the growth of the ‘Left Bloc’ in France, and of the so-called Labour Party and the independent Liberals in England. Naturally, it would be false to expect any serious change of policy consequent upon the reformist-pacifist orientation of the bourgeoisie. The objective conditions of the capitalist world today are least suited to reformism and pacifism. But it is quite probable that the foundering of these illusions in practice will have to be experienced before the victory of the revolution becomes possible.
the report to the Fourth World Congress of the Communist International on the New Economic Policy and the Perspectives for World Revolution, 14th November 1922.
In Britain the situation is no less instructive. The rule of the Liberal-Tory coalition has been replaced, as a result of the recent elections, by a pure Tory government. Clearly, a step ‘to the right’! But on the other hand, the figures of the last election precisely go to show that bourgeois-conciliationist Britain has already fully prepared a new orientation — in the event of a further sharpening of contradictions and growing difficulties (which are inevitable). The Tories obtained less than 51/2 million votes. The Labour Party, together with the independent Liberals, almost 7 million. Thus the British electorate has, in its majority, already swung from the lush illusions of imperialist victory to the emaciated illusions of reformism and pacifism. It is noteworthy that the ‘League for Democratic Control’, a radical-pacifist organization, has had its entire committee elected to parliament. Are there serious grounds for believing that the incumbent Tory regime may bring Britain directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat? We see no such grounds. On the contrary, we assume that the insoluble economic, colonial and international contradictions of the present-day British Empire will tend more and more to swell the plebeian and petty-bourgeois opposition in the person of the so-called Labour Party. From all indications, in Britain more than in any other country on the globe, the working class will, before passing over to the dictatorship, have to pass through the stage of a Labour government in the person of the reformist-pacifist Labour Party which has already received in the last elections about 41/4 million votes. . . .
It is by no means excluded that the German revolution may erupt before the present-day aggressive imperialist governments are replaced in France, Britain and Italy. No one disputes that the victory of the German proletariat would give a mighty impetus to the revolutionary movement in every country in Europe. But just as the impact of the Russian revolution within a year brought Scheidemann and not Leibknecht to power in Germany, so the impact of the victorious proletarian revolution in Germany might bring Henderson or Clynes to power in Britain; and Caillaux13 in an alliance with Blum14 and Jouhaux, 15 in France. Such a Menshevik regime in France would, under the given historical conditions, be only a very brief interlude in the death-agony of the bourgeoisie. There is even a possibility that in such a case the communist proletariat in France might come to power directly over the heads of the (French) Mensheviks. In Britain this is less likely. In any case, such a perspective presupposes the victory of the revolution in Germany during the next few months. Is victory certain so soon? Scarcely anyone would seriously maintain this. At all events it would be the crassest blunder to restrict our prognosis to such a one-sided and conditional perspective. On the other hand, without a prognosis it is generally impossible to arrive at a far-reaching revolutionary policy. But our prognosis cannot be mechanistic. It must be dialectical. It must take into account the interaction of objective and subjective historical forces. And this opens up the possibility of several variants — depending on how the relation of forces shapes up in the course of living historical action.
And so there is hardly any ground for a categoric assertion that the proletarian revolution. in Germany will triumph before the domestic and foreign difficulties plunge France into a governmental parliamentary crisis. This crisis would mean new elections and new elections would result in the victory of the ‘Left Bloc’. This would deal a heavy blow to the Conservative government in Britain; it would strengthen the Labour Party opposition and in all likelihood produce a parliamentary crisis, new elections and the victory of the Labour Party as such or in an alliance with independent Liberals. What would be the effect of such events upon Germany’s internal situation? The German Social-Democrats would immediately drop their semi-oppositional status in order to offer ‘the people’ their services in restoring peaceful, normal, etc., relations with the ‘great Western democracies’. This was the sense of my remarks to the effect that a shift in the domestic policy in France and Britain, should it occur prior to the victory of the Communists in Germany, could for a while lend wings to the German Social-Democracy. Scheidemann16 could once again come to power—but this would already signify the open prelude to the revolutionary culmination. For it is perfectly obvious that, under the existing European conditions, the impotence of the reformist-pacifist regime would be laid bare not over a number of years but in the course of a few months or weeks. In his speech on the draft programme [of the Comintern] Comrade Thalheimer quite correctly reminded us once again about those basic causes which exclude the possibility of a turn in capitalist policy toward Manchesterism, 17 pacifist liberalism and reformism. In power, Clynes or Caillaux-Blum or Turati would be unable to pursue a policy essentially different from the policy of Lloyd George, Bonar Law, PoincarŽ and even Mussolini. But when they come to power the position of the bourgeoisie will be rendered even more difficult, even more inextricable than it is today. Their complete political bankruptcy — provided, naturally, we pursue correct tactics, i.e. revolutionary, resolute and at the same time flexible tactics — can become laid utterly bare in a very brief span of time. In a ruined and completely disorganized capitalist Europe after the illusions of war and of victory, the pacifist illusions and the reformist hopes can come only as the ephemeral illusions of the death agony of the bourgeoisie. Comrade Ravenstein18 is apparently willing, with a reservation here and there, to recognize all this so far as the plebeian capitalists are concerned, but not as touches the capitalist aristocrats, i.e. the colonial powers. In his opinion the perspective of a reformist-pacifist prologue to the proletarian revolution is as inappropriate for Great Britain, France, Belgium and Holland as the slogan of a workers’ government. Comrade Ravenstein is perfectly correct in linking up the slogan of a workers’ government with the fact that the bourgeoisie still disposes of a reformist-pacifist resource, not a material but an ideological resource in the shape of the influence still retained by the bourgeois-reformist and the social-democratic parties. But Comrade Ravenstein is absolutely wrong in offering exemptions to the colonial powers. Before bringing her armed might upon the Russian revolution, Britain sent her Henderson to assist Buchanan in steering the revolution on to a ‘correct’ path. And it must be said that during the war Russia was one of Britain’s colonies. The British bourgeoisie followed exactly the same course in relation to India: it first sent well-intentioned and liberal viceroys and then, on their heels, squadrons of bombing planes. The growth of the revolutionary movement in the colonies would doubtless accelerate the assumption of power by the British Labour Party despite its invariable and repeated betrayals of the colonies to British capitalism. But it is equally unquestionable that the further growth of the revolutionary movement in the colonies, parallel with the growth of the proletarian movement at home, would once and for all topple petty-bourgeois reformism and its representative, the Labour Party, into the grave of history.
‘Political Perspectives’, lzvestia, 30th November, 1922.
What then does the general picture add up to? Extreme right-wing Conservatives in Britain; extreme imperialists, the National Bloc, 19 in France; the Fascists in Italy; the conservative rights in Poland; the counter-revolutionary Liberal Party in Rumania and one of the latest developments, the counter-revolutionary coup in Bulgaria. 20 We seem to be observing the swing of counter-revolutionary reaction flying forward to reach its highest point. To understand this more clearly and concretely let us say two words on the domestic situation in Britain and France.
In Britain the Conservatives hold power. The Liberals have become numerically the third party. The Labour Party forms the immediate opposition. At the elections it won more votes than the Liberals. The whole of British politics now stand under the sign of the inevitable coming to power of the Labour Party. You know the Labour Party there: it is British Menshevik reformism. The leaders of the Labour Party represent essentially the bourgeoisie’s political agents. For the fact is that there are periods when the bourgeoisie rules through agents like Curzon (who was the British Viceroy of India) but there are also moments when it is compelled to move to the left and govern the masses through MacDonald, Henderson and others.
The influence of the Labour Party is growing continuously. You read yesterday in the newspapers that Robert Smillie, one of the left leaders of the Labour Party, won the Morpeth bye-election, advocating moreover a programme not only of maintaining the agreement with the Soviet Union but also of full diplomatic recognition of Soviet Russia. He obtained a very considerable majority of votes over a bloc of Conservatives and Liberals. This fact is indicative. Comrades, anyone who follows the life of Great Britain will tell you that the bourgeois parties there are counting upon the Labour Party coming to power in a year or two’s time as an unavoidable fact, and that the bourgeoisie are having to accommodate themselves to the fact that their interests will be represented not by their old acknowledged leaders but through the intermediary of the Menseviks from the Labour Party.
a speech to party, trade union, Young Communist and other organizations of the Krasnaya Presnya district (Moscow), 25th June 1923.
In one of the many anthologies devoted to Lenin I stumbled upon an article by the British author, Wells, entitled ‘The Dreamer in the Kremlin’. 21 The editors of the anthology note in the preface that even such progressive people as Wells had not understood the meaning of the proletarian revolution which occurred in Russia’. This would appear to be in itself insufficient reason for including Wells’s article in an anthology devoted to the leader of that revolution. But it is not really worth quibbling over: I, for one, read Wells’s few pages with some interest for which, however, their author is not responsible, as we shall see presently.
1 can clearly visualize the time when Wells visited Moscow. It was the cold and hungry winter of 1920-21. In the air was an anxious presentiment of the troubles to come in the spring. Hungry Moscow lay under snow-drifts. The economic policy was on the eve of an abrupt turning-point. I remember very well the impression that V1adimir Ilyich [Lenin] brought back from his talk with Wells: ‘How middle class! How philistine!’ he kept repeating, lifting his arms above the table and laughing and sighing with a laugh and a sigh which indicated in him a certain inward shame for another person. ‘Oh dear what a Philistine’, he would repeat when he recalled the talk later. This exchange of ours took place just before a Politburo meeting and was essentially confined to a repetition of the brief description of Wells I have just quoted. But this was more than sufficient. Certainly I have read little of Wells, nor have I ever met him. But the English drawing-room socialist, Fabian, and writer of Utopian and science fiction, who had travelled here to have a look at the communist experiments formed a picture I could imagine pefectly well. Lenin’s exclamation, and the tone of that exclamation in particular, rounded it off neatly. So now Wells’s article, which found its way into a Lenin anthology by some inscrutable path, not only revived Lenin’s exclamation in my memory but also filled it with a living content. For if there is scarcely a trace of Lenin in Wells’s article, then Wells himself is written all over it.
Let us start right away with Wells’s introductory complaint: do you realize that he had to go to great pains and take some time to obtain an audience with Lenin which was ‘tedious and irritating’ for him. But why so? Perhaps Lenin had sent for Wells? Maybe he was obliged to receive him? Or perhaps Lenin had so much time to spare? On the contrary in those ultra-harsh days every minute of his time was full up; it was very hard for him to cut out an hour to see Wells. It would not be difficult for even a foreigner to realize that. But the whole trouble was that Wells, as a distinguished foreigner and for all his `socialisrn’ a highly conservative Englishman of an imperialist cast, was thoroughly convinced that he was paying this barbarian country and its leader a great honour by his visit. Wells’s entire article from the first to the last line reeks of this baseless conceit.
His description of Lenin starts, as you might imagine, with a revelation. Did you know that Lenin ‘is not a writer’? For who can in fact decide this question, if not Wells, a professional writer? ‘The shrill little pamphlets and papers issued from Moscow in his name, full of misconceptions of the labour psychology of the West . . . display hardly anything of the real Lenin mentality. . .’The worthy gentleman is not cognizant of the fact that Lenin has produced a number of basic works on the agrarian question, economic theory, sociology and philosophy. Wells knows only the ‘shrill little pamphlets’ and then he makes the remark that they were issued only ‘in his name’, intimating that others wrote them. The true ‘Lenin mentality’ reveals itself not in the dozens of volumes he wrote but in the hour long conversation which the most enlightened guest from Great Britain most magnanimously deigned to hold.
One might have at least expected an interesting sketch of Lenin’s external appearance from Wells, and we would have been ready to forgive all his Fabian banalities for a single well-drawn feature. But in the article there is not even this. ‘Lenin has a pleasant, quickchanging brownish face with a lively smile …’Lenin’s not very like the photographs you see of him’ he gesticulated little with his hands during our conversation Beyond such trivialities in the style of a pen-pushing hack reporter of a capitalist newspaper Wells did not go. He did, however, discover that Lenin’s forehead reminded him of the ‘domed and slightly one-sided cranium’ of Arthur Balfour and Lenin was generally ‘a little man: his feet scarcely touch the ground as he sits on the edge of his chair.’ With regard to Arthur Balfour’s cranium, we are not able to say anything about that worthy object and we will willingly believe that it is domed. As for the rest -what an obscene mish-mash! Lenin had a reddish-blond colouring which in no way could be called brownish. He was of average height or possibly a little under; that he gave the impression of a ‘little man’ and that he could scarcely reach the floor with his feet could only occur to Wells, who had arrived with the self-esteem of a civilized Gulliver in the land of northern communist Lilliputians. Wells also noticed that during pauses in the conversation Lenin was ‘pushing up his eyelids with his hand’; ‘this habit’, the perceptive writer deduces, ‘is due perhaps to some defect in focussing. ‘We know this gesture. It could be observed when Lenin had a strange and alien person in front of him and would cast a quick glance at him through his fingers resting against his forehead. The ‘defect’ in Lenin’s sight consisted in that he could in this way see right through his collocutor, see his pompous smugness, his narrow-mindedness, his civilized arrogance and his civilized ignorance, and once having made a mental note of that picture he could long afterwards shake his head and keep repeating ‘What a Philistine! What a ghastly middle-class!’
During the conversation Comrade Rothstein was present, and Wells made the discovery in passing that his presence was ‘characteristic of the present condition of Russian affairs’. You see Rothstein keeps a check on Lenin from the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, in view of Lenin’s excessive sincerity and his dreamer’s imprudence. What can we say about such a priceless observation? When he went into the Kremlin, Wells brought along in his mind all the rubbish of the international bourgeois news media and with his penetrating eye — which of course lacks any ‘defect’! — discovered in Lenin’s office what he had previously fished out of The Times or some other repository of pious and well-smarmed gossip.
Of what then did the conversation consist? On this score we can divine from Wells just a few hopeless commonplaces which prove how miserably and pathetically Lenin’s ideas break into some other craniums which, by the way, we do have some grounds for describing as one-sided.
Wells arrived ‘expecting to struggle with a doctrinaire Marxist’ but ‘in fact found nothing of the sort.’ This cannot surprise us. We know by now that ‘the real Lenin mentality’ was revealed not in more than thirty years of his political and literary activity, but in the conversation with the citizen from Britain. ‘I had been told that Lenin lectured people; he certainly did not do so on this occasion,’ Wells continues. But how in all truth can one lecture a gentleman so overflowing with self-esteem? That Lenin liked to lecture was not at all true. It is true that Lenin could speak very instructively. But he did so only when he considered that his collocutor was capable of learning something. In such circumstances he would spare absolutely no time or effort. But with the marvellous Gulliver who, by the kindness of fate, had found himself in the ‘little man’s’ office, Lenin must have needed only two or three minute’s conversation to gain an unshakeable conviction to the approximate effect of the notice over the entrance to Dante’s Inferno: ‘Abandon hope forever ..’
The conversation touched on big cities. In Russia, Wells declares, the idea occurred to him for the first time that the face of a city is determined by the trade in its shops and markets. He shared this discovery with his collocutor. Lenin ‘admitted’ that under communism cities might diminish considerably in size. Wells ‘pointed out to Lenin that the renovation of the cities would require a colossal labour and that many of Petersburg’s huge buildings would retain the significance of historical monuments. Lenin agreed also with this unparalleled commonplace of Wells. ‘I think’, the latter added, ‘it warmed his heart to find someone who understood a necessary consequence of collectivism that many even of his own people fail to grasp.’ There’s a ready-made yardstick of Wells’s mental level! He regards as the fruit of his tremendous power of vision the discovery that under communism today’s urban conglomerations will disappear and that many of today’s capitalist architectural monstrosities will retain merely the significance of historical monuments (unless they merit the honour of being demolished). But, of course, how could the poor communists (’the tiresome class-war fanatics’) reach such discoveries, which were, however, long ago elaborated in a popular commentary to the old programme of German Social-Democracy. This is not to mention the fact that the classic Utopians knew all about these things.
Now you will understand, I hope, why Wells ‘did not at all notice’ during his conversation that laugh of Lenin’s about which he had been told so much. Lenin was in no mood for laughing. In fact I fear that his jaw may well have been convulsed by a reflex quite the reverse of laughter. But here a mobile and clever hand performed Ilyich a necessary service, for it always knew how to conceal the reflex of a discourteous yawn from a collocutor too much taken up with himself.
As we have already heard, Lenin did not lecture Wells, for reasons which we consider quite acceptable. In exchange Wells lectured Lenin all the more persistently. He would keep impressing upon him the totally new idea that for socialism to succeed ‘it is necessary to reconstruct not only the material side of life but also the mentality of a whole people.’ He pointed out to Lenin that ‘Russians are by nature individualists and traders.’ He explained to him that communism was in too much of a hurry’ and destroying before it was ready to rebuild, and so on in that vein. ‘That brought us,’ relates Wells, ‘to our essential difference — the difference of the collectivist and the Marxist.’ By ‘evolutionary collectivism’ one is to understand a Fabian concoction of liberalism, philanthropy, thrifty social legislation and Sunday meditations on a brighter future. Wells himself formulates the essence of his evolutionary collectivism in this way: ‘I believe that through a vast sustained education campaign, the existing capitalist system could be civilized into a Collectivist world system. ‘Wells, does not make it clear by exactly who, and for exactly whom this ‘vast sustained educational campaign’ will be carried out; will it be the lords with their domed craniums for the British proletariat, or conversely the proletariat carrying it out against the lords’ craniums? Oh no, anything you like but not the latter. Why in the world do there exist the enlightened Fabians, people with altruistically conceived ideas, ladies and gentlemen like Mr. Wells and Mrs. Snowden, if not to civilize capitalist society and turn it into a collectivist one by means of a systematic and sustained excretion of everything concealed under their own craniums, and with such a sensible and happy gradualness that even the British royal dynasty will not notice the transition?
All this Wells expounded to Lenin and all this Lenin listened through. ‘For me,’ Wells remarked graciously, ‘it was very refreshing’ to have a talk with this ‘unusual little man.’ But for Lenin? Oh, poor long-suffering llyich! In private he would probably have uttered some highly expressive and juicy Russian words. He did not put them into English speech not only because his English vocabulary probably did not stretch that far, but also out of courtesy. Ilyich was very polite. But nor could he confine himself to a polite silence. ‘He had to argue Wells tells us, ‘that modern capitalism is incurably predatory, wasteful and unteachable.’ Lenin made reference to a number of points contained in Money’s new book amongst others: capitalism destroyed the British shipyards, hindered a rational exploitation of coal resources and so on. llyich knew the language of facts and figures.
’I had, I will confess,’ Mr. Wells concludes unexpectedly, ‘a very uphill argument’. What does this mean? Not the beginning of the capitulation of evolutionary collectivism in the face of the logic of Marxism? No, not by any means. ‘Abandon hope forever.’ This, at first sight unexpected, remark was in no way accidental, it forms part of a system and had a consistently Fabian evolutionary didactic nature. It is directed at the British capitalists, bankers, lords and their ministers. Wells is saying to them: ‘you see, you act so badly and destructively and selfishly that in my arguments with the dreamer in the Kremlin it tends to be difficult to defend the principles of my evolutionary collectivism. Be sensible, perform weekly Fabian ablutions, be civilized and march along the path of progress.’ In this way Wells’s doleful confession was not a beginning of self-criticism but an extension of the educational work on the same capitalist society that had emerged from the imperialist war and the Versailles Peace so much improved, moralized and Fabianized.
Wells remarks, not without a patronizing sympathy, that Lenin ‘has an unlimited confidence in his work.’ We have no need to dispute this. Lenin did have a sufficient fund of confidence in his cause. What is true is true. This fund of confidence provided him, amongst other things, with the patience in those dark months of the blockade to talk to any foreigner whatever who could serve even as a crooked link between Russia and the West. Thus Lenin’s talk with Wells. He would talk in quite a different way with British workers who came to visit him. With them he would have a lively intercourse; he both learned and taught. But with Wells the conversation had essentially a half-forced, diplomatic character. ‘Our argumentation ended indecisively,’ the author concludes. In other words the contest between evolutionary collectivism and Marxism ended in a draw. Wells went off to Great Britain, while Lenin stayed in the Krenilin. Wells wrote his pompous feature for the bourgeois public while Lenin shook his head and kept repeating: ‘How middle class! Dear, dear, what a Philistine!’
Possibly I will be asked for what precise reason or purpose I have been dwelling here and now, almost four years later, on such an inconsequential article by Wells. The fact that his article had been reproduced in one of the anthologies commemorating Lenin’s death is of course no justification. The fact that these lines of mine were written in Sukhumi while undergoing treatment is likewise insufficient reason. But I do have more serious motives. In Britain today Wells’s party stands in power, being guided by enlightened representatives of evolutionary collectivism. I thought, and perhaps not without reason, that Wells’s lines on Lenin might unveil to us better than much else the spirit of the leading layer of the British Labour Party: after all, Wells is not the worst of them. How terribly backward these people are, burdened as they are with the heavy load of bourgeois prejudices! Their arrogance, a delayed reflex of the great historical role of the British bourgeoisie, does not permit them to interest themselves as they ought in the life of other nations, in new ideological phenomena and in the historical process which is rolling past over their heads. Narrow routinists, empiricists blinkered by bourgeois public opinion, these gentlemen betake themselves and their prejudices around the world and contrive to see nothing around them except themselves. Lenin had lived in every country of Europe, mastered foreign languages, read, studied, listened, investigated, compared and generalized. While leading a great revolutionary country he would not waste any opportunity to learn, inquire and find out, attentively and conscientiously. He never wearied of following the life of the whole world. He could read and speak German, French and English, and read Italian with ease. In the last years of his life, when overburdened with work in the Politburo, he was learning Czech grammar on the quiet so as to have direct access to the labour movement of Czechoslovakia: we sometimes ‘caught him at it,’ and not without embarrassment he would laugh and try to justify himself. Yet face to face with him was Wells, the incarnation of that species of pseudo-educated, narrow middle-class people who look in order not to see and consider that they have nothing to learn because they are safeguarded by their inherited store of prejudices. Mr. MacDonald, who represents a more stolid and grim variety of the same type, reassures bourgeois public opinion: ‘we fought Moscow and we beat Moscow.’ Did they beat Moscow? They are the real poor ‘little men’, fully-grown as they might be! Today, after all that has happened, they know nothing about their own yesterday. The Liberal and Conservative businessmen can easily lay down the law to the ‘evolutionary’ socialist pedants now in power, compromise them and consciously set about their political as well as ministerial downfall. At the same time, however, they are preparing, albeit far less consciously, the coming to power of the British Marxists. Yes, that’s right, Marxists, the ‘tiresome class-war fanatics’. For even the British social revolution will take place according to laws established by Marx.
Wells once threatened with his peculiar stodgy pudding-like wit to crop Marx’s ‘doctrinaire’ head of hair and beard and anglicize, respectablize and Fabianize Marx. But this scheme neither has nor will come to anything. Marx will remain Marx just as Lenin remained Lenin after Wells had subjected him to the agonizing effect of a blunt razor for an hour. We will venture to predict that in the not so distant future two bronze figures will be erected side by side in London, say in Trafalgar Square, those of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. The British proletarian will say to his children: ‘What a good thing the little men from the Labour Party did not manage to crop or shave those two giants!’
In anticipation of that day which I hope to live to see, I shut my eyes for an instant and I can clearly see Lenin’s figure in the armchair, the same one in which he saw Wells, and I can hear, on the day after Wells’s visit or perhaps the same day, those words uttered with a stifled groan: ‘How middle class! How Philistine!’
‘Around October’, Pravda and Izvestia, April 1924
We must say a few words at this point about Great Britain, with its new experience of a so-called Labour government on a parliamentary, ‘democratic’ basis, that is, the most ideal and sacred, so it would seem, for every right-thinking Menshevik,
What has this experience given us thus far? You know that the so-called Labour Party does not have an absolute majority in Parliament. Why? Because a significant section of the British workers to this day tag along at the tail of liberalism. These workers are not by any means the most obtuse; they simply don’t see much difference between liberalism and MacDonald. They say: ‘What’s the sense of changing our quarters and going to the expense of moving when the only difference is in the landlord’s surname?’
So none of the parties in Parliament has an absolute majority. The Liberals and Conservatives have stepped back and said to the Labour Party. ‘Oh sirs, you are the most powerful party. Oh please, come rule and be master over us.’ The British are great humourists, as you know. This is testified to by Dickens, that great representative of British humour.
And MacDonald took the government. Now we ask: What next? How will the ‘Labour’ government proceed? If it does not have a majority in Parliament, that does not mean its situation is totally hopeless. There is a way out; one need only have the will to find it.
Suppose MacDonald said this: ‘To our shame, our country has to this day a kind of august dynasty that stands above democracy and for which we have no need.’ If he added that those sitting in the House of Lords and in other state institutions were all the titled heirs of bloodsuckers and robbers and that it was necessary to take a broom and sweep them out — if he said that, wouldn’t the hearts of British workers quicken with joy?
What if he added, ‘We are going to take their lands, mines, and railways, and nationalize their banks.’ And there’s surely more to be found in the British banks than we found in ours! [stormy applause]. If he added: ‘With the resources released by the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords we are going to undertake the construction of housing for the workers,’ he would unleash tremendous enthusiasm.
In Britain three-quarters of the population is working class. It is a purely proletarian country. It has a small handful of landlords and capitalists — they are very rich and powerful, it is true, but still they are only a handful.
If MacDonald walked into Parliament, laid his programme on the table, rapped lightly with his knuckles, and said, ‘Accept it or I’ll drive you all out’ (saying it more politely than I’ve phrased it here) — if he did this, Britain would be unrecognizable in two weeks. MacDonald would receive an overwhelming majority in any election. The British working class would break out of the shell of conservatism with which it has been so cleverly surrounded; it would discard that slavish reverence for the law of the bourgeoisie, the propertied classes, and church and the monarchy.
But MacDonald will not do that. He is conservative, in favour of the monarchy, private property and the church. You know that the British bourgeoisie has created a variety of churches, religious associations, and sects for the people’s needs. As in a big clothing store, everyone can find a church for his own size and shape. This is no accident; it is quite expedient from the ruling-class point of view. This splintering and varied adaptation of the church provides greater flexibility and, consequently, more successfully befuddles the consciousness of the oppressed class.
In our country the dominant church was the embodiment of the most official bureaucratism. It did not concern itself overmuch with the soul. But in Britain there are subtler methods and devices. In Britain there is an ultra-flexible, conciliatory, I might even say Menshevik, church. In addition, British Menshevism is thoroughly imbued with the priestly spirit. All this is merely the church’s way of adapting to the different groups and layers of the proletariat — a complex division of labour in the service of the bourgeois order.
Comrades, there is no need to mention that even before the ‘Labour’ government, I did not have a high opinion either of the Second International or of MacDonald. But you know, and this is something I said earlier today in speaking with some friends, each time you encounter Menshevism in a new situation, you have to conclude that it is even more rotten and worthless than you had supposed.
This so-called Labour government is weighed down totally, to the very limit, with the worst petty-bourgeois prejudices and most disgraceful cowardice in relation to the big bourgeoisie. MacDonald’s ministers reek of piety, and make a show of it in every possible way. MacDonald himself is a Puritan: he looks at political questions, if you can call it looking, through the glass of the religion that inspired the revolutionary petty-bourgeoisie of the seventeenth century. His colleague, Henderson, the Home Secretary, is the president or vice-president, or something of the sort, of the Christian evangelical societies. Every Sunday the Home Secretary in the Labour government pronounces a devout sermon.
This is not a joke, comrades, not something from the British equivalent of Krokodil; this is a fact. And this fact is tied in the most intimate way with the whole British conservative tradition, the clever, skilful, sustained ideological work of the British bourgeoisie. It has created an unbelievable terrorism of public opinion against anyone who dares declare that he is a materialist or atheist. Britain has a glorious history in science. It gave us Darwin, the Marx, of biology. But Darwin did not dare call himself an atheist.
The British big bourgeoisie is a handful, and police repressions would be of no avail if the political influence of the church did not exist. Lloyd George once said, not without reason, that the church was the central power station of all the parties. To clarify this for you more specifically, let me cite one example that I mentioned in speaking privately with some friends. In 1902, that is, twenty-two years ago, I was in England and, with V1adimir llylch, attended a social-democratic meeting in a church. The meeting proceeded in the following fashion: a worker in the printing trade who had returned from Australia gave a speech that for those times was fairly revolutionary, against the ruling classes, for revolution, etc; then everyone rose and sang a hymn or psalm on the theme: Merciful God, grant that there be neither rich nor kings nor oppressors [Laughter]. All this is an important constituent feature of British political mores. The British bourgeoisie is the stronger for it, and the British proletariat weaker.
In recent days I read, I forget in which paper, a speech by MacDonald himself to an evangelical society. He spoke with indignation of the class struggle, preaching that society can save itself only through Christian morality, etc. Isn’t it hard to imagine him speaking of the Soviet Republic with indignation? But what happened? This Puritan, pacifist preacher of Christian morality, no sooner entered the government than he confirmed a proposal to build five new cruisers. His colleague declared that in the field of military aircraft the plans of the preceding Conservative government would remain unchanged.
Moreover, even after the Labour government came to power in Britain, the production of light tanks continued apace. You see what Christian pacifism looks like in practice. And it is not surprising that the same MacDonald declares that in the field of politics, continuity is necessary, that is, anything the Conservatives can do, we can do too.
In a letter to PoincarŽ he writes that the alliance between Britain and France is the basis of European peace and order. Why? How does this follow? Present-day France is the personification of militarism and reaction. Why should this Labour government of Britain find itself in alliance with the vile French plutocracy?
Why couldn’t a Labour government, an actual Labour government, make an alliance with us? Would this be a bad alliance — one between the working class of Britain and the working class of the Soviet Republic? Between Tsarist Russia and capitalist Britain a long struggle went on. Tsarist Russia wanted to encroach on Britain’s colonies, above all India, while Britain denied Russia access to the Dardanelles. Bismarck called this struggle between Russia and Britain the battle of the elephant and the whale.
But now, with the great new change in history, cannot the whale of Labour Britain conclude a friendly alliance with the Soviet elephant? Would not such an alliance represent the greatest advantage for both sides? British industry and the British people need our fields, our forests, our bread, our raw materials, and we need their capital and technology. The alliance of Labour Britain with us would be a strong cheek on bourgeois France; it would not dare commit further outrages and ravages in Europe.
Together with Britain we would help Europe reduce the burden of armaments; we would draw closer to the creation of a workers and peasants United States of Europe, without which Europe is threatened with unavoidable economic and political decline.
But what does MacDonald do? This devout pacifist tells PoincarŽ, the most ferocious representative of stock-market France, that he wishes to remain in alliance with him, of all people — and consequently in opposition to us and the labouring masses of Europe. There you have real Menshevism, not the pocket edition, like you had here with Zhordania, but Menshevism of world proportions, placed in power in a country that encompasses hundreds of millions of colonial slaves.
In the few weeks of its rule, British Menshevism has become hated in the colonies, in both India and Egypt, where revolutionary nationalist aspirations have won out under the slogan of full separation from Britain. The Mensheviks will start complaining that British industry can’t get along without Indian and Egyptian cotton and colonial raw materials in general. As if that were the question! If MacDonald tried to reach agreement with the Indians and Egyptians on the basis of their full independence, Britain would have cotton in exchange for machines, would have economic ties, and these ties would develop. But here too MacDonald acts as a Menshevik-steward for the British imperialists.
Finally, there is another fact that has a direct symbolic significance for history: it concerns Turkey. Turkey, as you know, has done away with the caliphate. This is a progressive liberal-bourgeois measure. Nationalist Turkey throws off the feudal vestments of the Caliph and Sultan and becomes a more or less bourgeois-democratic country. This is a step forward.
What does the MacDonald government do, this Menshevik ‘Labour’ government? It crowns a new Caliph in the Hejaz, the so-called ‘sheikh of Mecca and Medina’, in order to have, in his person, a weapon for colonial enslavement.
I read in The Times — although it is a Conservative organ, in foreign policy it always expresses the official line of the existing government, whether bourgeois, Liberal, or MacDonaldite — I read there that in Turkey, alas, the age-old sacred, majestic foundations are cracking and that we have the profound misfortune to see it happening before our eyes. And MacDonald subsidizes this very same newly cooked-up Caliph in Hejaz, because for majestic institutions a majestic establishment is necessary, and a corresponding budget.
In particular, the entourage of the Caliph is linked with a rather vast harem, which as we have read, was recently expelled from Constantinople. With the unemployment existing in Britain and the difficulties of the British budget, it is necessary, obviously, for MacDonald to cut unemployment benefit slightly in order to cover the additional expenses of the Caliph’s new harem. This all seems like a humourous anecdote but it is a fact that cannot be erased from history. . . .
Just think! This ‘humane’ and ‘civilized’ Britain, in the person of Gladstone, threatened Turkey because of its backwardness and barbarity. And now, when Turkey has got on its feet and chased out Caliph and Sultan, parliamentary Britain establishes a Caliph under its protectorate. There you have the full measure of the decline of bourgeois democracy!
If in regard to all this you should ask what will be the fate of our further discussions with the new British government regarding possible loans, joint settlement of claims, etc., I would find it hard to give even an approximate answer. How can one know what MacDonald will decide to do, and what his Liberal and Conservative controllers will allow him to do?
And here I should correct the second inaccuracy in the interview published in Zarya Vostoka. It said there that Trotsky had indicated the possibility that these talks would serve as a lever to overthrow the so-called Labour government of MacDonald. No more, no less! Comrades, if I were to say something like that, Comrades Chicherin22 and Rakovsky23 would take stern measures against me, and they would be right.
Imagine the situation: we have sent a delegation for talks and at the same time I declare that we have sent this delegation in order to overthrow MacDonald, in passing. How? What for? To have Baldwin or Lloyd George in his place? Nonsense. I said nothing of the kind. On the contrary, our delegation is one of the levers that may immensely strengthen the British government. Under what conditions? Those of daring and decisive action by that government.
In Britain there is unemployment: it could be reduced by granting us credits, by increasing our purchasing power. The Soviet Union could serve as a truly vast market for British goods. No colonial plunder could give the British economy the advantages that a solid alliance with us could. Credit is not philanthropy. We pay the going interest rates. There are obvious mutual advantages in such an arrangement.
What are the obstacles? The capitalists demand, through MacDonald, that we repay the Tsarist debts. Whenever did the victim, after breaking free of the ropes that had bound him, pay the robber for the ropes? Well, we broke out of the Tsarist bonds. And do you think we are going to pay the British stock exchange for them? No, never!
Our own obligations we will rigorously fulfil. We openly and triumphantly avowed in the first Soviet, in 1905, that we would not pay the Tsarist debts, and we shall fulfil that international obligation of ours [stormy applause]. If we now deem it necessary to enter into one or another business agreement with the bourgeoisie, we will fulfil our new obligations most rigorously.
Bankers of Britain, if you give us a loan, then as long as you remain the bankers of Britain, that is, as long as the British proletariat tolerates you, we will pay it back promptly and exactly. And when the British proletariat overthrows you, it will disinherit you of our debts as well. There you have a clean, business-like and irrefutable statement of the situation.
The surest guarantee of our fulfilling international obligations is our own self-interest! If MacDonald would make a broad agreement with us, he would strengthen himself. Of that I have not the slightest doubt. In general, he can win the hearts of millions of workers only by a courageous policy, and then no one could turn him out by parliamentary tricks. As you can see, this is not at all what was ascribed to me in the newspaper interview. It was a hasty conversation, in a railway carriage, before the train pulled out; the comrade was jotting things down quickly with his pencil. I am not trying to reproach him, but merely to rehabilitate myself [laughter].
That MacDonald will, with all his strength, help to overthrow himself, is absolutely clear to me, as it is to all of you. The Liberals, as I gather from a quick glance at the paper today, left MacDonald in a minority in Parliament on the question of workers’ housing, and he felt obliged to accept the Liberal bill. What does this mean? The worker will say, ‘Why get a Liberal bill via MacDonald when I can get it directly from a Liberal?’ From this it is clear not only that the Liberal Party will remove MacDonald as prime minister whenever it wants to; it is also undermining the authority that the Labour Party has in the workers’ ranks.
A section of the workers, the more aristocratic, better-off workers who voted in the last election for the Labour Party, will probably vote for the Liberals in the next election. They will say, ‘This is a solid, established firm; why fool around with the middleman?’ But the broad mass of workers will make a turn to the left. At what rate I do not know, but there is no doubt that as a result of the temporary splendour of having even a Menshevik government, a very significant strengthening of the left wing in the working class will take place. MacDonald is working for the communists. Yes, from the viewpoint of the international revolution, he is working for us.
However, I certainly don’t intend to send him a note of thanks for that. He is working in this direction not only unselfishly, but also unconsciously. Flushed by the Liberals and Conservatives, who intentionally compromise him, revealing that he is only a toy in their hands, MacDonald in turn pushes the British workers towards the revolutionary road. Such will be the final result of this historical experiment, the coming to power of the British Labour Party.
a speech to the Tbilisi Soviet, 11th April 1924 (On the Road to the European Revolution)
The most acute question in our international position, at least on the plane of journalism, are our talks with Britain. Here, comrades, we still find ourselves in an extremely uncertain situation which reflects the political uncertainty of Europe as a whole and of Britain’s Menshevik government in particular.
Yesterday I met journalists from the American and British press and on behalf of their newspapers they demanded from me an explanation in connection with certain, supposedly impolite or sharp expressions about MacDonald’s government which I used in my report in Tibilisi. To justify my alleged attacks against the British government I asked the editors of Pravda to print the report in full. It is printed today and if Mr. MacDonald is interested in what we think about him he can instruct his translator to translate what refers to him and interests him.
But comrades, it is quite remarkable how these gentlemen are arrogant on the one hand yet touchy on the other. Over Georgia, which I visited the other day, MacDonald threatened us with an international democratic, or social-democratic tribunal. We are ‘not democrats’. We ‘trample on’ nationalities. We have ‘strangled’ Georgia. He excommunicated us from all the Menshevik and puritan churches — he is both a Menshevik and a practising puritan — because we violated the principle of democracy. He declared when he was already prime minister: ‘I fought Moscow and I beat Moscow’, not he personally but together with the whole Second International. Yet we are supposed to treat this as something legitimate. MacDonald, the representative of a great enlightened country, criticizes us, excommunicates us, threatens us, and this must not impede the progress of peace negotiations or economic negotiations. I, a citizen of a backward country, in Tbilisi, a remote city in a similarly backward country in whose fate MacDonald had earlier shown interest, permitted myself to say: ‘Well, good, you enlightened citizens of a greater democracy have come to power, yet you still keep human rubbish in the form of lords and an aristocracy and so forth, just when will you pick up a broom and do some sweeping?’ which is of course a very naive question from the standpoint of a representative of a backward country which is accused of violating all the principles and laws of democracy. It is true that we have always said that the power of the toilers, the dictatorship of the toilers is in fact our rule. The way it was constituted is entirely democratic, or if not entirely so, the rule of the toiling masses is in itself a hundred and a thousand times higher than formal democracy.
We have never denied formal democracy. We said: formal democracy is higher than Asiatic despotism, higher than the power of the Shah of Persia or the King of England. The dictatorship of the proletariat is higher than formal democracy. Formal democracy is higher than monarchic and aristocratic barbarism and any shameless titled oligarchy. This has always been our viewpoint and those who accuse us of dictatorship have explained to us the advantages and sacred values of democracy. When they came to power it emerged that democracy was only opposed to the working class and not the power of the House of Lords and the British monarchy.
At the same time I made the objection that MacDonald has not got a majority in parliament, but I advanced the suggestion that if he were to appear in the House of Commons, or in the House of Lords, and say: honourable members, we need to make economics in the budget to provide the unemployed with necessary means and therefore the House of Lords is to be abolished, nine-tenths of the people would be behind him. But then, over these business considerations, which could be called costing questions (laughter), over these the British press, the pro-government, semi-government and conservative press beat a frantic alarm. This means that we are ‘breaking off negotiations’ which MacDonald granted us.
Just note, what a narrow conceit! Where does MacDonald get it from? This is a reflection of the omnipotence of the London Stock Exchange. When we have self-confidence it reflects the strength of the working class which has taken power for the first time (applause). With MacDonald it is a reflection of the omnipotence of the Stock Exchange whose authorized agent he effectively is when in power. How dare impoverished Soviet Russia tell the truth to the face of Britain or America, cultured, rich, enlightened countries with a foreign trade turnover of many millions! That’s their psychology. We shall wean them from this psychology! (Applause). .. .
We find ourselves living in an era of extreme instability. There can be a reaction of a directly contrary nature following recognition. For you know that when that MacDonald criticizes us (he considers that in the order of things) and in criticizing us makes this or that political remark then he or his press rears up on its hind legs. What does this signify? This signifies that they have still not got away from the idea, and today’s telegram from France is the best testimony to the fact, that when we go to negotiations we should go with our head bowed.
Today there is a telegram in the morning papers in which the official French telegraph agency states: ‘for our part we are following the negotiations between the Soviet Union and Britain, we are following them very attentively and we cannot here permit any deal at the expense of the first and oldest creditor’. Britain, they say, is a second-rank creditor, but the old and the chief creditor of Tsarist Russia was France and the moment it comes to agreements then France will stretch out her claw: pay France first of all please.
Simultaneously with our delegation’s negotiations, other negotiations, the so-called reparations negotiations between Germany and the Entente, are being held over Germany’s repayment of the contributions imposed upon her. Here too the prospects for either side are hopeless. To lend to Germany would mean to create a powerful competitor for Britain. Britain to date exports only three-quarters the amount of goods she exported before the war while her population has increased. Industry and plant has grown. If Britain gives credit to Germany (German industry is now working at half its capacity), Germany will be able at once to turn out — and German technique is first-rate and German workers first-rate producers — 50-75% more goods than at present. This means an industrial crisis for Britain. Likewise for France.
Britain can give credit to us. Why? Because we are an agricultural country, because we will give Britain raw materials, timber, agricultural produce in exchange for machinery, advanced technique and in part industrial products. But to do this we are once again faced with the question of the stability of the whole bourgeois world.
a speech to the 7di Congress of Railwaymen, 19th April 1924
In Britain, the conservative-reformist and pacifist illusions of the working class, seriously undermined by the war, are now booming again, and more luxuriantly than before, under the sign of the Labour Government. The entire political past of the British working class, in so far as it is expressed in political moderation, conciliation, reformism and complicity in the imperialist policy of the bourgeoisie, is now being subjected to its highest test, with the transfer of power to the Labour Party. The Labour Party itself is playing down the seriousness of this text by pointing to the fact that it has not an absolute majority in Parliament and therefore is not responsible for everything. But history has nevertheless mounted a full-scale experiment. The outcome of the MacDonald regime, however it may finish from the formal standpoint, will be a deepening of criticism and self-criticism in the ranks of the working class. And criticism and self-criticism means a growth of the left wing. For Britain the period of the formation of the Communist Party is only now really opening.
The MacDonald government has not only deepened the temporary democratic-pacifist illusions of the British working class, it has also increased its self-awareness. One cannot say that the British working class now feels itself master in the house, for if it had that feeling then it would already have become master. But the average British worker says to himself. we do count for something, then, since the King has called our trade unionists to power. And this awareness, whatever conservative limitations it may bear within itself as a result of the entire past, itself gives a big stimulus to future development. The workers have become more demanding, less patient, and as a result the number of strikes has sharply increased in Britain. And it is not for nothing that the Sunday Times is complaining that though they have splendid Labour leaders in Britain these are being rapidly thrust aside by revolutionaries. Rapidly or not, they are being thrust aside and they will be thrust aside — thrust aside and thrust out [Applause].
a speech to the 5th All-Russian Congress of Medical and Veterinary Workers, 21st June 1924 (Through What Stage Are We Passing?)
We can see how the government of the same MacDonald quivers at the voice of its masters, the bourgeoisie, while restraining the British proletariat from making a bold step to confront it. If there were any elements of energy and courage in the British Labour government then it would make a broad treaty with us and this treaty would make a new page in the history of the whole world. Just look how bank deposits have grown in Britain over the last years. British industry does not have its former outlets; it has scarcely won back. Three-quarters of its pre-war markets. If they do not make a treaty with us they will be choked to death by the pressure of America. We, with our boundless spaces and our 130 million-strong population, represent for them the most enormous interest. Our country is rich in the natural resources which Britain lacks. Look at our agricultural lands which could feed Europe. Look at our subterranean wealth, our oilfields and our forests with which we could furnish all of Europe, and all the world. All this cries out for British technique! just let us unite and you will see how quickly you and we will be able to raise ourselves up. The British working class would have cheap wheat, bread, they would have meat and they would have sufficient raw materials and would grow richer — as we would ourselves. And an alliance of Labour Britain and the workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Union would be a mighty lever in the world, not a platonic demonstration on the third Sunday in September but the opportunity for combining the most powerful naval force with the most powerful land-based armed forces. Along with the working class of Britain we could order Europe to disarm and Europe would not dare shove us off! [Applause]. And yet these gentlemen chide us for the fact that this or that sharp expression of ours is upsetting the progress of the negotiations in Britain. But isn’t this a shameful and contemptible view? Surely the interests of two great nations, two states, cannot be determined by this or that sharp expression? But why are these expressions on the tips of our tongues? Because the programme which I have just sketched in rough outline, this programme of the pacification of Europe and its rapid advance will not be realized, for the working class of Britain does not have a government which could make this bold step which is vouchsafed by all history, of an alliance with us.
In London we have accepted a series of agreements and we shall quite sincerely accept new ones, we shall fulfil all our obligations and at the same time we will say — and no diplomatic considerations can prevent this — we will say to the British working class: ‘You do not have at your head a government which is worthy of you!’ When I called the MacDonald government a government of stewards to the British bourgeoisie, the British press pounced upon this expression almost as if it offended the national dignity of Britain. Over there they translated it in various ways. They asserted that I said that MacDonald was a bank ‘clerk’ and others said a ‘stock market shark’. I have already explained that I didn’t say that. A bank clerk is an employee, a bank proletarian, and among them are many fine revolutionaries. As far as I know MacDonald has not worked in a bank and if he had, then he has now radically changed his profession [laughter]. Nor did I call him a stock-market shark. This too is the profession, though a less laudable one, of the small speculator on the Stock Exchange. As far as I know, MacDonald has not had any relation to this category, or at any rate he has not now. But when I say that he is the political steward of the bourgeoisie, then this is the truth and on May Day we can repeat this truth with a clear conscience [applause]. When I said this I did not know that I was committing a literary plagiarism on Lloyd George, for it was he (we must put this in!) who said on 24th April that the Liberals had put MacDonald in power and wished him well, but that in three months he had cornpletely squandered the reserve of their benevolence. Whose voice is this? This is the voice of the master who has ‘put a steward in charge’. ‘I put you in charge, I trusted you, but you have not fulfilled my trust.’ And are we not right to say that if MacDonald acknowledges this criticism and this voice of the master then can he blame us if we translate this into the language of our political terminology? It might seem that the British Labour government had been put in by the proletariat and bears responsibility to it. And it might seem that MacDonald should make an appeal to the proletariat in order to insert in his programme the policy of an alliance with the Soviet Union on a platform of fraternal co-operation. And had he presented such a programme and Lloyd George dared to raise his voice against it, then nine-tenths of the proletariat would have swept both the Liberals and the Conservatives clean out and then the new Labour government of Britain would be unshakable. But will this happen now? No, nor will it happen tomorrow. But this hour is nevertheless approaching. And who is bringing it nearer? MacDonald and his associates are bringing it nearer. They accuse us of propaganda. But surely not a single one of us, if we went off to Britain knowing the English language, customs, habits and traditions to perfection, could have such an influence through his propaganda or produce such a shift in the consciousness of the working class as the fact that at the head of the country stands a government which considers itself to be the government of the work ing class but to which Lloyd George says: ‘I put you in charge but you did not fulfil my trust.’ There’s an instructive dialogue! There s propaganda for you! Ibis will embed itself for ever in the consciousness of the workers of Britain. We are not making propaganda but a prediction, for we do have a theory of political foresight and perception wrought by revolutionary experience. We predict that MacDonald and his government will play in Britain a very great preparatory role for the revolution, not because MacDonald wishes it so but, on the contrary, because he does not wish it so. MacDonald belongs to the Puritans. The Puritan church is the English branch of Calvinism. Calvinism is the Protestant doctrine at the base of which lies the law of pre-destination. This law states that man does not enjoy free will but fulfils his destiny in accordance with the designs of divine providence. There is no free will. Every man is a tool in the hands of divine providence; this ideology of Calvinism closely resembles the politics, psychology and objective role of democracy and Menshevism in the present epoch of imperialist autocracy. Calvinism says: your ideas and hopes are but subjective illusions, for actually you are a tool in the hands of providence. And the petty-bourgeois politician is indeed fed with illusions, each step he takes is dictated by subjective error, but in fact he is a tool if not in the hands of providence then in the hands of Morgan, Rockefeller and big capital in general. And while it is beyond doubt that in this sense MacDonald represents a tool in the hands of the City of London and of the British Stock Exchange, history has allotted him a still greater role in that he represents the unconscious tool not of divine providence — we have quite a serious difference with MacDonald on this score for there is no place for divine providence in either our programme or our ideas — but of the laws of history. History has said to him: ‘Mac Donald, guided by your subjective prejudices, show what you can do and show what you wish to do.’ And so MacDonald shows us that he wishes for little and is capable of even less [laughter, applause]. And it is this which is his enormous role — in the hands of the providence of history. As a result MacDonald gives a mighty impulse to the revolutionary movement of the masses of Britain. Let me repeat once again: this is not propaganda; this is Marxist foresight made on the basis of the laws of history and all our political experience. We are conducting negotiations with MacDonald in good faith and I, like everyone of you here, want these negotiations to yield practical results. These negotiations are on one plane while the problems of the great contest of classes and of the struggle between the two Internationals are on another, higher plane and embrace great masses of people and great periods. For we shall spend May Day in the profound certainty that in this great play of historical forces, in the struggle of the classes and in the working of the laws of history, MacDonald and the whole of European Menshevism form an instrument which is preparing, not according to the laws of Calvin but according to the laws of Marx, the ground for the advent of British Bolshevism.
Not so long ago, MacDonald said: ‘We fought against Moscow and we beat Moscow.’ This is presumably not propaganda! ‘We fought Moscow and we beat Moscow.’ He considers the fact that today, at the 35th anniversary of May Day, Europe, dismembered, bled white, led by Mensheviks and semi-Mensheviks (as far as the bourgeoisie permits them to lead) is still alive, he considers that this fact signifies our defeat. No, this is but one of the stages on the road to our forthcominghistoric victory. You fought Moscow and you are fighting Moscow. And what of it? We are not afraid of waging this struggle alongside ngotiations. But no, you haven’t beaten Moscow. Not by a long shot!
What we are talking about is Red Moscow, that Moscow where we are here preparing to celebrate May Day in our own Soviet fashion. This Red Moscow is strong, a great and strong builder constructed it and European Menshevism and British MacDonaldism shall not beat it! It is true that the great builder of Red Moscow will not be greeting May Day with us — he lies in the heart of Moscow in the mauseoleurn on Red Square; but if the great builder of Red Moscow has died then he who shall defeat our Red Moscow has yet to be born! [Stormy applause. Internationale.]
a speech to the Moscow Soviet, 29th April 1924 (May Day in the West and East).
There has never been a more favourable moment in history to gain an absolute majority in parliament, but to do this MacDonald would need a different party from MacDonald’s. It is difficult to predict today the results of the election. 24 If the Conservatives obtain a majority Curzon will be in power. This will complicate the question of a treaty but will produce an explosion in the class struggle. The workers will press on with their old trade union demands and pose the question point-blank. British politics have reached a turning point and a sharpening of the class struggle.
a speech given to the Pyatigorsk Soviet, 14th October 1924.
1 A leading Belgian right-wing social-democrat.
2 In the General Election of January 1906 the Labour Representation Committee increased its parliamentary strength from 5 to 26 seats.
3 The Fabian Society was formed in 1884 by a group of middle-class intellectuals and propounded a programme of social reforms and winning power in parliament to bring about a gradual evolution towards socialism.
4 The Independent Labour Party was founded in 1893 by Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald as a working-class party which would he independent of the Liberals. In its programme and practice it never entirely broke from liberalism. It played a leading part in establishing the Labour Representation Committee which became the Labour Party. It adopted a pacifist attitude to the First World War and was the dominant force in the Labour Party until 1931 when it disaffilliated.
5 The Triple Alliance of the Miners’ Federation, the Transport Workers’ Federation and the National Union of Railwaymen had been formed in 1914 but collapsed in April 1921 when the leaders of the transport workers and the railwaymen refused to call their members out in sympathy with the miners’ strike against the coal owners’ wage cuts.
6 A French communist who held the syndicalist idea of the ‘unqualified independence’ of the trade unions from political parties. His book on " China" has been translated into English by Socialist Platform Ltd and published, 1998.
7 This proposal had been made by a conference representing the Labour Party, the TUC and the Parliamentary "hour Party. See previous note on Genoa.
8 Lenin, and subsequently the Politburo, rejected Trotsky’s proposal and recommended that the Soviet trade unions take no action but that Izvestia should publicly welcome Henderson’s suggestion of expanding the Genoa agenda to include questions of national self-determination.
9 See Extract 96.
10 The Conservatives won the 1922 General Election.
11 French general who became supreme Allied commander on the Western Front in 1918 and took a leading part in framing the Versailles Treaty.
12 French Prime Minister from 1922 to 1924.
13 The leader of the French Radical Socialist Party, which was in fact a bourgeois liberal party.
14 The leader of the French Socialist Party.
15 The leader of the reformist wing of the French trade unions (the C.G.T.).
16 A leading German right-wing social -democrat.
17 This refers to the economic policies of free trade and laissez-faire advocated by nineteenth century radicals like Cobden and Bright, who led the Anti-Com Law League which was founded in Manchester in 1838.
18 Dutch communist who defended an ultra-left position at the Fourth World Congress (1922) opposing any parliamentary activity and participation in reformist trade unions.
19 The right-wing coalition government formed by Millerand in France in 1920.
20 A military coup d’Žtat led by General Tsankov and backed by right wing parties overthrew Stambulisky’s Peasant Union government in June 1923. The Bulgarian Communists adopted a mistaken position of neutrality towards this seizure of power but were soon subjected to persecution and following an abortive uprising in September driven underground by Tsankov’s regime of White terror.
21 Sunday Express, 28th November 1920.
22 The Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs from 1918 to 1930.
23 Soviet diplomatic representative in London. See also Christain Rakovsky
24 The Conservatives won the 1924 General Election.
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