Hermann Gorter recounts his struggle against the Dutch Communist Party, following its abandonment of internationalist principles and adoption of reformist policies.
The communists are distinguished from the other working class parties by this only.... In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.... United action, of the leading civilized countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat.
Manifesto of the Communist Party
When one has dedicated as many years of one’s life to the theoretical propaganda of Marxism, i.e., scientific socialism, as has the author of this pamphlet, and then decides to cease to do so in Holland, at least temporarily—and at the very moment when socialism is passing from science to action—then one would want the last stage of one’s labors to be as clear for the workers as the previous two stages were.
In newspaper articles (in the Tribune) the results of this work have been published, but in a dispersed form, largely inaccessible to a wider public. They can be found in their entirety in this pamphlet.
The first period of my propaganda for scientific socialism in Holland was the struggle against Troelstra and opportunism in general, i.e., the revolutionary struggle within the SDAP.
The second stage was the struggle carried out together with the SDP for the revolutionary unity of the Dutch proletariat.
The third stage was the struggle against the leadership of the SDP (now the Communist Party), and for the revolutionary unity of the international working class. This last stage of my work might appear, to many workers, to be less important than the other two. In reality, however, the struggle for the revolutionary unity of the international proletariat has now become the most important task.
This is because both the Dutch Communist Party and the Third International are suffering from the same opportunism which ruined the SDAP and the Second International. And this opportunism appears to be preventing, or at least retarding, the unity of the international proletariat and the victory of the revolution.
This is why I want to explain the character and the development of my struggle against the leadership of the Communist Party of the Netherlands1 as clearly as possible.
My last word on the Dutch Communist Party will be directed against the worst enemy of the working class.
The growth and concentration of national capital into syndicates, cartels and trusts, i.e., into monopoly capital, and the rule of finance capital over all other kinds of capital, led to the world war between the most important financial groups of the world’s great powers, and the states grouped together under their leadership.
The working class did not rise to the occasion of this challenge because it had not formed a revolutionary unit on either the national or the international level. Consequently, the war broke out without any significant resistance on the part of the workers.
And when the war was underway, the working class could again do nothing, precisely because of this lack of international unity. If this unity is not produced by the revolution, it is quite likely that the revolution will be defeated in one country after another.
Because now, after the war, international capital—whatever enmity may exist between national capitals, whatever their disagreements—is firmly united against every national revolution. And they are joined by the social democratic parties, the social patriots who supported the war effort; and by the pseudo-Marxist parties (the Kautsky tendency) which everywhere commit the same act of treason as they did during the war, so that a united front is constructed throughout the world, an international front, which fights against any revolution for communism, and therefore against the international revolution as a whole; a united front of England, America, Germany, France, Italy and Austria, of Clemenceau-Renaudel, Ebert-Noske, Wilson-Gompers, Lloyd George-Thomas, etc.
If anyone still has any doubts that this is the case, just look at Russia and Hungary. The revolution of the soviet republic in Russia is threatened by all of them, by England and France as well as by Germany; this same coalition has also done its part to annihilate the council republic in Hungary.
Against this united front—this much is clear—only a revolutionary united front of the international revolutionary proletariat can fight effectively. A national proletariat and even several national proletariats together, would be defeated by this united front.
In addition—and this is of the utmost importance—not every country undergoes economic collapse at the same time and to the same degree. Capital is in a much stronger position in England and the United States, in the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries than in Germany, France and Italy. The former will still have large capital reserves for some time to come which will be used against the world revolution. There are even some grounds for doubt whether England and the United States are threatened by economic collapse at all. This is not yet clear.
Already, during the war, and even at the beginning of the war, this was where the great question arose: How to achieve this international revolutionary unity? And above all: What kind of tactics must the international proletariat, and thus each national proletariat, employ to make this unity possible, to fully realize it? These were the most important questions for the communist revolution. There are no reflections on these questions, nor any theories, in Marx and Engels, or in Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg or Lenin.
This is why I have concentrated all my attention on this question since the beginning of the war, and have tried to provide an answer in two pamphlets: Imperialism, the World War and Social Democracy and The World Revolution.
This question became yet more pressing, and its solution all the more urgent, when Kautsky betrayed our cause, and Rosa Luxemburg was assassinated.
My answer was: the proletariat can only be victorious in its struggle and in the revolution, if it treats the imperialisms of the two camps of the great powers as equivalents, as they actually are, if it fights the imperialism of the two camps, that is, of all nations, as if it were one single imperialism. I have tried in every possible way, in the two pamphlets mentioned above, to prove that this answer is correct.
And the day probably approaches when it will be proven that the tactic I have defended since 1917 was the only correct tactic.
If, as is most likely, the Russian soviet republic is attacked again, or if the German revolution breaks out once more, the unity of the American and European proletariats will immediately become necessary. Because Anglo-French-American imperialism, supported by Scandinavian-Dutch imperialism, will immediately confront this revolution with military or economic means, or with both at the same time. And then the proletariat of England, France, America, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden will immediately have to unite with the proletariat of Germany, in order to bring all their forces to bear to prevent Anglo-French-American imperialism from defeating the German revolution.
The same would be true if the revolution were to break out in any other great power. It was this tactic which gave rise to my disagreements with the leadership of the SDP (CP). The SDP’s tactical conceptions were fundamentally different from mine. Before outlining the evolution of my struggle against the SDP leadership, I shall set the record straight concerning the following point:
One argument employed by Wijnkoop against my international tactic was as follows: Gorter diverted the Dutch proletariat from its most essential task. This task is to bring about the revolution in the Netherlands. In response, I say:
The revolution in the Netherlands can only break out, and can only have a chance of success, if, in the most important countries, above all in Germany and England, capitalism has been weakened by revolution. Because Dutch capitalism, unlike the countries which participated in the war, has not been weakened, but has been considerably reinforced. Its reserves of gold and the strength of its currency prove this. If the situation in all the other countries were like our situation, a revolution would not be possible in any of them, either.
Only when capital is severely shaken or is overthrown in the largest countries will the revolution also take place here, as a result of export and import and trade difficulties, etc.
By revolution, we mean the demolition of the existing society and the construction of a new one. The revolution comprises both of these moments.
Besides the power of Dutch commercial, industrial and agricultural capital, the revolution is also currently impeded by Holland’s economic dependence on foreign trade. The Netherlands is in the same situation within the European context as Bavaria is within the German context.
Consequently, when Wijnkoop said that my tactic hinders the most essential task of the Dutch proletariat, he was mistaken.
However, preparatory movements are possible in the Netherlands: demonstrations, the creation of workers councils, strikes, etc. My tactic never constituted an obstacle to such movements. It was always in full agreement with them. And in this respect I have often felt admiration for the editors of the Tribune.
But has there been an occasion where the Dutch party could have taken part in the international revolution? Yes, there has been one point where the Dutch working class and the international revolution intersected, and that was the struggle against Entente capital when the latter was on the verge of victory, and then when it had won the war.
That was when Entente capital threatened the Russian, the Hungarian, the German and the world revolution, and the Dutch proletariat could have intervened by revolting against Entente capital where it was possible to do so.
This was the tactic which I recommended but which was rejected by Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn.
We also see that when the Dutch proletariat first acted in a revolutionary way, it was when it confronted the Entente, and not when it carried out a revolution against Dutch capital, which in Wijnkoop’s opinion was its most essential task.
Thus, far from having hindered the cause of the proletariat, my tactic has promoted it.
On the other hand, we see that it is precisely Wijnkoop’s and Van Ravensteyn’s policy which has held back and still holds back the proletariat at the very threshold of linking up with the world revolution.
And now, to the issue at hand.
While browsing through the issues of the Tribune from the war years, it becomes apparent that, from the very first day of the war, it leveled fierce criticisms against the imperialism of the Central Powers, but (apart from a few observations formulated in the mildest terms by Henriette Roland-Holst) either said nothing about the Allies or more or less took their side, although they were certainly no less “responsible” for the war, or less cruel.
Consistently, and as a matter of principle, the Tribune never attacks the imperialism of the Entente, but savages Austro-German imperialism in innumerable articles.2
One could cite hundreds of examples of this anti-German and pro-Entente position, but I only want to highlight this tendency’s opposition to my own position, so I shall restrict myself to examining its most typical characteristics, which I have already cited on previous occasions.
In April of 1917, Lenin, Zinoviev and many other Russian revolutionaries traveled from Switzerland to Russia, in order to participate in the revolution and to transform the bourgeois revolution into the proletarian revolution. The German government allowed them to pass through its territory. This was criticized by the Tribune.
In July of 1917, Kerensky, under orders from the Entente, launched his final offensive against the Germans. It was a last-ditch, desperate attempt to save Russian capitalism. The Russian revolutionaries demanded peace so that Russian capitalism could be annihilated and the world revolution could begin. They were therefore correct to oppose the Kerensky-Brusilov offensive.
But the Tribune, and the leadership of the Communist Party in the Netherlands (at that time, the SDP), announced its support for this offensive.3
Nor did Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn agree with the peace treaty signed by the Russian communists at Brest-Litovsk. “Such a peace”, the Tribune announced on November 30, 1917, “would be a betrayal of the cause of the proletariat, much worse than the one committed by the Scheidemanns during their worst moments.”
These three facts prove that the leadership of the Communist Party subordinated everything to the defeat of Germany and the victory of the Entente, even the beginnings of the Russian revolution—the model for the world revolution. And, therefore, that it did not see that the victory of Entente imperialism implied great dangers for the world proletariat, dangers at least as serious as those which would have accompanied a German victory; that it did not fight the two imperialisms with the same dedication; that it favored one of them, and it did not see that the world proletariat had to, and still must, form a united front against international imperialism. That is, its opinion was diametrically opposed to mine.
Even so, for the first few years of the war, this policy was at least plausible. At that time it appeared that Germany was not going to be defeated, that it could very well win the war, and that, consequently, its imperialism would pose the greater threat. And also: the Dutch government, Dutch imperialism, was closely aligned with German imperialism. It was therefore understandable, although somewhat short-sighted, for Dutch revolutionaries to exclusively attack German imperialism.
But when the United States entered the war, all of this changed. From then on it was possible, and then probable, that the allied powers would win the war, and that they would therefore necessarily comprise the most reactionary force arrayed against the revolution, and that they would assume the leadership of the reactionary camp, of the common united front against the proletariat. From then on the position of the leadership of the Communist Party (at that time it was still the SDP) became a serious error. On various occasions I personally wrote letters to the Tribune’s editorial committee, saying just that. Various comrades instinctively agreed with me, especially in the party’s Amsterdam section.
This is why comrade Luteraan published a very good anti-Entente article in the Tribune of October 4, 1917.
But the editorial committee, without actually directly addressing the question, responded in the most pathetic manner, which led me to believe that the situation was even worse than I had thought. The editorial committee obviously did not want the Entente to be criticized in the Tribune. As a matter of principle it had never done so, and it did not want anyone else to do so, either.
I then immediately wrote, at the beginning of October 1917, an article for the Tribune, which criticized German imperialism as well as that of the Entente and the United States (the article was reprinted last June in De Nieuwe Tijd). Wijnkoop, however, managed to prevent the article from being published until January of 1918. The editorial committee responded to my article in March, and I published a second article, which I wrote immediately thereafter, in July after the elections. We had to struggle from mid-October 1917 until mid-July 1918, i.e., nine months, to publish two basic articles criticizing the Entente and the United States!
Ultimately, Wijnkoop obliterated a very important, perhaps even the most important objective of the international proletariat: the struggle against the two imperialisms, the unification of the whole international proletariat against imperialism in its entirety—just as Troelstra previously obliterated the voice of the opposition.
Why did the leadership of the Communist Party do this?
It could not be because it wanted the revolution to break out in Germany, and thus wanted Germany to be defeated. Defeat and revolution in Germany would not have taken place even one day sooner because the truth about the Entente was silenced. It would have been possible to fight both the imperialism of the Entente as well as German imperialism at the same time. 4 But the leadership of the Communist Party prevented us from criticizing the Entente with all the means at its disposal. Why such harsh attacks and the bridling of free speech, as had previously occurred within the SDAP?
The reason is to be sought in opportunist electoral tactics.
The SDAP was pro-German. A large part of the Dutch workers, however, especially the syndicalists and anarchists, sympathized with the Entente. It was thought that these latter workers could be won over by not saying anything, as a matter of principle, against the Entente. The Communist Party’s leadership’s search for immediate electoral success was the reason why it stifled an even-handed and objective critique, and thus prevented the consideration of problems of the greatest importance for the proletariat.
The second reason was its limited point of view, which led it to think that it only had to fight one imperialism, instead of both of them, that it had to deal with one part, instead of taking on both imperialisms as a single whole.
By its suppression of free speech the leadership of the Communist Party has shown that it has used every means at its disposal to bring about the triumph of its one-sided, pro-Entente policy. It has shown that, in order to further its petty partisan interests, it has followed the same tactics in foreign politics as Troelstra did in regards to domestic politics. It has shown that it did not want a pure, and therefore strong party (even though currently a small party) like Lenin and the Bolsheviks, but a party strong in numbers and above all in terms of votes (!)5 It has, in a word, shown that it cannot be relied upon: although it definitely stands to the left of Troelstra and the SDAP leadership, it comes from the same mold. It has subordinated international class interests to partisan domestic interests. It has in addition shown that its policies were partial to the Entente.
When America entered the war in 1917 I said that it was a great error not to fight Anglo-Saxon imperialism as much as German imperialism.
But in 1918, when Anglo-American imperialism had practically assured its eventual victory, when it assassinated (sic) the Russian revolution and its victory had thus become the greatest danger to the world revolution, then the policy of the SDP leadership became a crime.
Because at that moment, only the unity of the international proletariat against the leading power of international capital, against Anglo-American imperialism, could save the Russian and the world revolution.
Despite all of this, however, the leadership of the Communist Party (at that time the SDP) did not renounce its tactic: it finally publicly confessed its stance in a declaration of principles. In the Tribune of September 26, 1918, it wrote, repeating in part what it had already said in December of 1917:
“In fact, the United States is not pursuing, either as a primary or a secondary goal, directly imperialist interests. By that we mean territorial, economic or financial interests.”
According to the editors of the Tribune, the United States is not fighting for more influence in China, the Pacific, Japan, Siberia and Russia. According to the editors of the Tribune, the United States is not fighting for world domination! This is certainly the biggest lie ever read in a communist newspaper.
So, what is really happening?
The United States, that is, the capitalists, the big bankers and monopolists of the United States and their spokesman Wilson, are trying to divide Europe into small powerless states. Germany had to give up Alsace-Lorraine and Silesia (two pillars of its strength), it had to be deprived of its militarism. Austria-Hungary had to be split up into numerous independent states. Russia will be broken up into many parts, if the current trend towards national autonomy continues there. And discord is arising among these states, between Germany and France, and among the countries of Austria-Hungary, Poland, the Baltic, etc. The European continent is becoming an inferno of conflict. To sum up: no one country remains which can confront the United States. And the United States will therefore attain absolute world domination, especially if it continues its collaboration with the universal English empire.6
This is the goal which the United States is trying to achieve.
It is for this purpose that it is creating an army more powerful than any other, it is developing its own militarism, it is building a fleet which can compete with the world’s most powerful navies, with each one separately, and with several at the same time. And it is for this purpose that it is militarizing all the institutions of the United States, including education, etc.
And the Tribune responded to these developments in the following manner: The United States did not take part in the war for any material interests. Not for territorial, economic or financial interests!!!
The United States wanted to use this war to establish its world domination. This can be deduced from the facts, even if its words lie and dissimulate as much as possible.
The assertion of the Tribune’s editorial committee contradicts the entire development of capitalism, which teaches us that every great capitalist state, due to a constantly-increasing mass of surplus value, is forced to expand and thus to attack. It contradicts everything we observe in the policies of the other great states. No evidence at all is provided in its defense. I have provided evidence in my pamphlet on imperialism that all great states, and therefore North America as well, must practice a policy of aggression. It is not, therefore, necessary to repeat it here.
I was right, then, when I said that the Tribune not only fails to mention the Entente’s objective, or conceals this objective, but also considers the imperialism of the Entente in a more positive light than German imperialism.
Just compare its treatment of the Entente with all the abuse directed by the Tribune’s editors at German imperialism.
But the Tribune’s editors go even further. They state:
“Above all, Wilson wants to protect the Union (the United States) from a terrible future danger, and to create a new capitalist world order, in which it will be possible to keep this danger at a distance more easily, if not prevent it altogether.”
“In which it would most likely be possible to prevent, even forever, serious clashes between the great powers. This is the material basis of its ‘idealism’ and its war craze. A capitalist ideal, of course, but an order which would undoubtedly mean a higher level of development. . . .”
“This imperialist ideal implies . . . nothing less than the possibility, the goal, of preventing the capitalist world from (once again) undergoing a terrible catastrophe, like the one it has just suffered for the last four years.”
And, as the editorial committee said of Wilson’s goal, “as time passed, the more it became the goal of the war, the more it also became the goal of radical political public opinion in many European countries.”
I was therefore not just exaggerating when I said that the editorial committee’s policy was favorable to the Entente.
And that its policy has a positive assessment of the goal of Entente imperialism.
After saying that the United States is not fighting for material advantages, it states that the United States, the whole Entente, and even all of Europe’s pacifists, want a new world capitalist order to arise, in which serious conflicts will not exist, or will at least usually be prevented!
It preaches a reformism in foreign affairs which may have the same consequences as Troelstra’s reformism did in domestic affairs.
In this respect, the editorial committee of the Tribune joins the company of all the reformists and social patriots, all the false Kautsky-style Marxists, all the pacifists, all the demagogues like Lloyd George, Wilson, Czernin, Max von Baden, etc., etc., and all the bourgeois parties, who are endeavoring to fool the workers with the idea of a World Alliance and a worldwide peace.
The most stupendous deception ever perpetrated against the people in the history of the world has begun. And the Tribune participates in it without proffering even the shadow of an argument.7
And all of this contradicts everything which Marxism has ever taught us. It is the most extreme example of a pro-Entente policy, and it is the policy of the editorial committee of the Tribune.
The reader will therefore recognize that I was correct when I suggested that the editorial committee of the Tribune, once having advocated a pro-Entente policy, still has to do so now, and that it would have to continue to do so in the future. Because whoever defends such an opinion concerning American, English and Entente imperialism, will also have to support this imperialism in their political practice, in the chamber of deputies. Because even if they recognize that this imperialism is anti-socialist, it is in their opinion infinitely better than the German variety.
But now there is much more to take into consideration.
The entire position of the party leadership, as it relates to both domestic as well as foreign politics, now becomes clear.
When it was not guided by its anxious desire for immediate political influence, by its desire for the support of anti-German elements in Holland (syndicalists, petite bourgeois, the Telegraaf, etc.)—and I stand by every word which I have written on this topic—it was guided by its erroneous opinions, which have nothing to do with Marxism, about Anglo-American imperialism, which reached their culmination in the idea that the League of Nations and world peace might be possible.
We can now understand why the party leadership only fought German imperialism and never, as a matter of principle, that of the Entente. We can now understand why it suppressed Luteraan’s opposition as well as mine, and persecuted others.
We can now understand why it did not want to participate in the Zimmerwald conferences.
We can now understand why it had some reason to criticize the journey undertaken by Lenin, and others, through Germany to Russia.
We can now understand why it approved of the Kerensky-Brusilov offensive. In addition to its previously-mentioned ardent desire for power, all of this was due to the opinion that the Entente’s policy really was better than Germany’s and that—under Wilson’s leadership, and under the leadership of American capital—the Entente’s policy sought, and was capable of achieving: “An order which would undoubtedly mean a higher level of development,” as it says in the Tribune.
This is what lies behind the whole policy of the Tribune and the SDP.
But all of this has nothing to do with reality. It has become clear that everything written by the Tribune’s editorial committee is wrong. The Peace of Versailles has offered convincing and definitive proof of this assertion.
Like all opportunism, theirs also produced ambiguities. They had to make the workers believe that all imperialism was to be fought, but this injunction was only absolutely clear in regard to German imperialism. This was quite obviously revealed in their position on the Russian revolution. They sent a telegram to Lenin, expressing their complete agreement with his tactics, and saying that peace would have to arrive via revolution in all countries. But they forgot to add that their primary goal was Germany’s defeat, and for this reason, that Russia should continue the war against Germany, if necessary. This is how they deceived both the Dutch and the foreign workers. And their entire tactic concerning the Russian and the world revolution, as a result of their position on Germany, and by its preference for the Entente’s imperialism, was profoundly false and ambiguous.
The leadership of the Communist Party (at that time, the SDP) has nonetheless continued to practice this tactic even in its subsequent political activity in parliament.
The worst possible scenario, that Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn would also declare their support for the Entente and North America in the chamber of deputies, has now become a reality. And it was these two men who, during the war, in the fall of 1918, demanded that food should be obtained by all possible means—a quote from the Tribune—from the United States. This also implied that ships and other materials would be put at the disposal of the United States which would facilitate the war against the Central Powers, Russia, etc. Everyone knows—and Wijnkoop’s words by all possible means show that he, too, was quite well aware of this—that the United States, once the Netherlands accepted its proposal, would also ask for more ships, which would be used in the prosecution of the war. The Communist fraction in the chamber of deputies has thus thrown its support behind the Entente—to obtain white bread. And this at the very moment when the Entente was beginning to attack, and to overthrow, the Russian revolution, and perhaps the revolution in Germany and Austria! The fraction had already made this promise before the elections: Above all, white bread for the Dutch people. Whether this harmed the Russian revolution, or the German, Austrian, or international revolutions, was of little importance. Long live the nation! The nation above the international! White bread by all possible means! This is the same thing that Troelstra had previously done on a national level: “Help for the poor, if possible with, but if necessary against socialism”, this is what Troelstra told me in regard to the agrarian question. Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn have done precisely the same thing on an international level.
It would be of no help to them at all if they were to say that they are leaving the implementation of the necessary measures to the bourgeoisie. It was they who proposed: By all possible means. They are therefore responsible, since they had previously accepted all possible means.
The SDP called upon the other socialist parties, the German, English, French and North American parties, to hold firm to international ideals during the war, and not to support the war. It demanded that comrades be prepared to suffer anything, hunger, the destruction of their countries, the death of their women and children, and their own deaths. But then, when the SDP itself and the Dutch proletariat had to suffer hunger—suffering a thousand times less severe than that endured by many countries involved in the war—then, for the SDP and the Dutch proletariat, it was no longer necessary to uphold their international ideals!
It was thus all for the sake of appearances, nothing more: the protests against the social patriots as much as the glorification of the Bolsheviks. When it was necessary to put one’s own skin at risk for the international, to put the international above national interests at home, the party failed to rise to the occasion. In this respect, with this failure, the SDP has adopted the point of view of Kautsky, Longuet, etc., in the matter of political practice. It has elevated petty and parochial national interests above international class interests. Our times require, however, that party interests be disregarded in favor of all international class interests. Or, more precisely: that party interests should become identical with international interests.
Only if all the proletariats—the English, North American, French, and Scandinavian, in the first place—can accomplish this goal, would it be possible for the international revolution to succeed. This must be the basic line, the fundamental idea underlying the international politics of the countries mentioned above, and indeed of all countries. International interests must merge with the national class struggle, completely impregnating it.
Furthermore, Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn did not protest when they faced a concrete test, when Rotterdam was turned into a base for England and North America. Even though this base would undoubtedly also be used against the German communist revolution; even though England and North America would undoubtedly attempt—when the communist revolution broke out again in January—to use this base to crush the revolution, as they had done in Hungary, and would like to do in Russia; even though the Dutch government, by handing over Rotterdam for use as such a base, had joined the international reaction for the first time; even though the Dutch proletariat, at that moment, could have participated in the international struggle in a united front against world capital and for the world revolution, the communists in the Netherlands did not even once call for resistance or protest.
Once again, it was the same tactic: all out against German imperialism, nothing against Anglo-American imperialism.8
And despite everything, there can be no doubt: all the proletarians must confront all the imperialisms as a whole, and thus, now, above all, the dominant imperialism of world capital, Anglo-American imperialism.
Anglo-American capital must be attacked in every country. A united front must be formed against this capital, which has the ascendancy and the leadership (in the struggle) against the world proletariat, and which is now oppressing the whole world, but especially Europe, Asia and Africa, the “civilized” countries as much as the “barbarous” and all the colonies. And which, thanks to its infinite resources spread throughout the world, might be able to resist the tide of bankruptcy and revolution. And which is today, as Russia was previously, the fortress of reaction.9
In every country, and especially the neutral countries as well, which serve as bridges between the world’s imperialisms—everywhere, wherever the world’s imperialisms are attacked in the manner described above, wherever a struggle based on this policy is carried out by the workers in the great powers, who are decisive with regard to the final outcome, all the workers, and first of all, naturally, the transport workers, must refuse to lift even one finger for Entente imperialism.
In Stockholm, in Göteborg, in Christiana, in Copenhagen, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, just as in the English, French and Italian ports. And not only when dealing with shipments to Russia, but also to Germany, as I shall demonstrate in more detail below.
This was my tactic.
By not acting in this manner, the editorial committee of the Tribune and the parliamentary fraction of the Communist Party harmed the unity of the international proletariat. With their support for Anglo-American imperialism (for bread alone!) they have truly betrayed the cause of the world revolution.10
Naturally, a leadership which acts in such an opportunist manner in relation to this most important international issue also runs a serious risk of practicing an opportunist policy in domestic politics as well.
When the war ended, all my “prophesies” about Anglo-American imperialism were proven to be correct. That, for instance, the Peace of Versailles would break Europe into a hundred little states, which would be dominated by Anglo-American-French capital, thus Balkanizing Europe, turning it into a hell, where the English and American capitalists would rule as chief devils and the fate of the proletariat would be terrible indeed. A hell where new wars would immediately break out, where the League of Nations would merely be a tool in the hands of England and a means to establish North American rule over the world, and where a new world war is a certainty.
But even today, when the Entente has razed all of Eastern Europe, when it has subjected the whole proletariat of Eastern and Central Europe to terrible sufferings, when it threatens the Russian revolution with death, drowned the Hungarian revolution in blood, stymied the development of the German and Austrian revolutions, today, when in all the countries of Europe and North America, including the neutral countries, the revolution will not be just a revolution against each national bourgeoisie, but also against English and American capital, which control sources of food supplies and means of transport, today, when England and the United States have, even in all the other countries of North America and Europe, assumed the leading role in the leadership of world reaction, even today the leadership of the Communist Party does not take the stand it should against these powers, England and the United States.11
With the strike of June 21, 1919, against the intervention of the Entente in Russia, it took a step in the right direction. This strike also proved, and practically demonstrated, that my tactic for the international revolution against Entente capital was indeed correct. But even now the Party only undertakes half-measures, and without the necessary understanding. It only attacks the Entente’s actions in Russia. What is really necessary, the denunciation of the Entente and the United States and of the ringleaders of world imperialism generally, including Germany, throughout the world, has not occurred. In short, it still employed, and continues to employ to this day, their erroneous tactic.
This is made apparent by the reaction of the Communist Party’s leadership to the Peace of Versailles. A critique of its position on this issue will complete this portion of my argument.
The Peace of Versailles, imposed by American and Entente capital, means, I repeat, endless sufferings for the European as well as the Dutch proletariat. Food shortages, scarcity of goods, unemployment, higher taxes, nationalism and chauvinism, rearmament, new wars, a new world war, such will be the consequences of this Peace. The European continent will be rendered powerless, and all international capital will be subjected to the rule of England and America, in their struggle against the international proletariat.
Nonetheless, the Communist Party, following the recommendation of its leadership, has not joined the protest (at the last party congress Wijnkoop still viewed this protest as “a lot of hot air”) against the Peace of Versailles.
What are the causes of this behavior, which is at first sight so strange and so absurd?
The first reason is: It did not want to miss the chance to strike a blow against the SDAP. The SDAP protests the peace; the Communist Party, then, must not do so! This opportunist reasoning, which has no other purpose than attracting votes and seats in parliament, is so miserable that it is not worth the effort to waste even one word on it.
The second reason: The Peace of Versailles is directed against German imperialism, whose destruction is of the utmost importance. German imperialism (and with it its inseparable allies, the Ebert-Noskes) protested against the Peace, so as to rally the German nation around it once again. Therefore, we must not protest against this Peace which will destroy German imperialism.
This argument once again proves how limited the attitude of the Party’s editorial committee and leadership is in the domain of foreign affairs, in relation to the cardinal question of imperialism.
Because first, by not protesting one weakens German imperialism, but at the same time one reinforces Anglo-American imperialism, which, as I have demonstrated, was as dangerous as the German variety, but is now obviously much stronger. Now that German imperialism has been defeated and lacks everything, it will have little chance of seizing world power. Anglo-American imperialism has won, and has acquired world domination.
Secondly, the Peace of Versailles is not only directed against German imperialism, but also against the German communist revolution. The German revolution has been paralyzed by the occupation of the country, the interruption of supply shipments, etc.
Third, when the German communist revolution soon broke out once again, Entente imperialism formed an alliance with German imperialism against the revolution, as it had formed an alliance with Kolchak, Denikin and Mannerheim in Russia.
Thus, by not protesting against the Peace of Versailles, the Communist Party of the Netherlands supported Entente and American imperialism as well as the German counterrevolution.
In other words, it exhibited the same stupidity in its position on the Peace of Versailles as it had shown in its position on Kerensky’s offensive.
The Dutch Communist Party has furthermore distinguished itself in this respect from all the other communist parties.
The Italian, French and English communists publish protests against the Peace of Versailles in their press. So do the Swiss, Norwegians and Swedes. And the Russians, too. And also the German Communist Party. The leadership of the German party declares in its official newspaper, the Kommunistische Räte-Korrespondenz of June 20, 1919:
“But the proletariat cannot remain trapped in slavery to either the domestic or the foreign bourgeoisie. If this peace means upholding the dictatorship of Entente capital, with or without the help of German capitalism, then we are for war against both the foreign as well as domestic exploiters.”
“We reject the Peace of Versailles, because it is a pact between the bourgeoisie of the Entente and the bourgeoisie of Germany, directed against the German proletariat, and for the purpose of upholding and intensifying the exploitation of the German working class.”
“But we are not fighting the bourgeoisie of the Entente in a common struggle with the supporters of rejecting the peace negotiations, but against them. Our struggle against the Entente imperialist is simultaneously a struggle against the Ebert-Scheidemann government, against the regime of German capital. And since we are engaged in a serious war with the dictatorship of German capital, within Germany, we also have to direct this war against the dictatorship of Entente capital.”
Heinrich Laufenberg says that the world’s revolutionary proletariat must unite to fight the Peace of Versailles. He sees the way, and the key, to world revolution in the common struggle against Anglo-American imperialism.
The Vienna party newspaper, Die Rote Fahne, expresses a position very similar to that of the German party. It also points out that the proletarians of all the countries of Eastern Europe are becoming the coolies of American and English capital.
All the communist parties attack the Peace of Versailles in their newspapers.
And, finally, the Third International protests against the Peace of Versailles, in the person of its president Zinoviev, and has passed a resolution at its Congress in Moscow (presented by Osinski) which, among other things, says:
“The ‘democratic’ states of the Entente are practicing an extremely reactionary policy.”
“Reaction is victorious (in the Entente countries as well) all over the capitalist world, when it falls under the influence of the Entente.”12
As we see, the whole Communist International protests against the Peace of Versailles.
Therefore, the whole Communist International defends the same point of view I have defended since 1914, and which I have disseminated in opposition to the leadership of the SDP and the Dutch Communist Party since the summer of 1917. But the Dutch party, a member of the Third International, does not protest the Peace of Versailles.13
The only correct position is: Struggle against the Entente, but not alongside the social patriots, not together with Scheidemann, but in absolute independence.
Furthermore, as was reported, when Wijnkoop informed the Congress that the Italian and French parties had called upon the proletariat to go on strike because of the Entente’s attack against Russian and Hungarian communism, he only told half the truth.
As the official newspaper of the English party, The Call, reported in June of 1919, the French and Italian parties called upon the proletariat to strike not just against the Entente’s intervention in Russia and Hungary, but also against the Peace of Versailles.
And anyone—anyone among the militants of the Communist Party of the Netherlands—who admits that the Peace of Versailles is producing interminable sufferings for the proletariat; that the struggle in Europe against this peace could continue long into the future; that the Peace of Versailles is also directed against communism; that Entente imperialism will form an alliance with German imperialism against German and world communism; that the leadership of the struggle in the united front against communism is now in the hands of England and the United States, and that this leadership position in this struggle will be increasingly dominated by these same countries, to which the Peace of Versailles has granted world rule—whoever acknowledges these facts, would not mention only half the proclamation of the Italians and French, as the leadership of the Communist Party desires, but the whole proclamation.
But is it not true that the German revolution has to defeat German imperialism first? Does the world revolution not depend upon this first step?
Of course, both these questions could be answered in the affirmative. Nothing is certain. But we have never denied this, and we have always approved of all propaganda against German imperialism.
But this is not how these questions must be formulated.
Because the question is not whether the German revolution has to prevail first, and whether the world revolution depends on this eventuality, but: How can the German revolution be victorious?
In this case there can only be one answer: Anglo-American imperialism will form an alliance with German imperialism against the revolution,14 and the German revolution will immediately confront not just German imperialism, but also French-Anglo-American imperialism.
It is therefore the duty of the German communists, and, consequently, also the duty of the Dutch and all other communists, to simultaneously fight both German imperialism and French-Anglo-American imperialism. Why? On the twenty-first of June you attend the demonstration against intervention in Russia, that is, you fight against the Entente’s involvement in Russia; but you do not fight against the Entente’s involvement in Germany? In Germany, you support the Entente? This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the real relation between world imperialism and the world proletariat.
The Peace of Versailles itself, with all the difficulties and adversities which it may pose for capital, is essentially an agreement between the two international imperialist camps. Adverse or not, it signifies peace between the two of them.
German capital has accepted it; it wants to comply with its terms and pay reparations. That is, English, American and German capitals want to join forces in order to resume the exploitation of the international proletariat.
Viewed in this manner, which is the only correct perspective, the Peace of Versailles is a peace between international capitalists, but a declaration of war on the international proletariat, and is directed against the revolution of the world proletariat.
And the Dutch communist proletariat, led by Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn, did not protest against this peace! And the Communist Party loyally followed them!
The statesman-like tactic and wisdom of Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn, which consists in attacking German imperialism, fighting only German imperialism and not Anglo-American imperialism (Wijnkoop said: “We are proud of it”), is thus an erroneous and short-sighted tactic. In reality, it helps Anglo-American imperialism, which is allied with its German counterpart; it therefore helps international imperialism.
German and Anglo-American imperialism, i.e., world imperialism, closes ranks against the revolution in such a way that it is necessary to attack both imperialist camps, and all imperialisms, as if they constituted one single imperialism. If one wants to fight German imperialism, one has to attack Anglo-American imperialism, and vice-versa. The tactic of the leadership of the Communist Party helps both of them; it helps world imperialism against the world revolution.
From everything which has just been briefly summarized above, one can conclude that the way chosen by the SDP and the Communist Party to fight world imperialism, that is, its foreign policy, has been bad in every respect.
Its position on Lenin’s return to Russia, on the Kerensky Offensive, its defense of Wilson and the League of Nations, its suppression of the freedom of speech within the Communist Party in regard to criticism of the Entente, the practical support it gave to the Entente through the concession of ships and the port of Rotterdam, its failure to protest against the Peace of Versailles, all demonstrate that this is true.15
This is why, in 1917, 1918 and 1919, I rebelled against the party leadership.
All of this shows that the leadership of the Communist Party in the Netherlands has not yet risen to the occasion of the revolution, and that it still does not understand the revolution.
What great change leads to the revolution? The fact that the masses must do everything themselves. Only the masses, when they attain national and international unity, can bring communism.
But in this struggle the masses need a vanguard. This vanguard is the International Communist Party. This vanguard must be absolutely pure and faithful to its principles. Pure in its means and its ideas. Because if it is not, the masses will become confused and lost.
That is the way it is in every revolution. There was always a nucleus, a vanguard, a minority, which finally became the majority. Such was the nucleus of the geuzen, Cromwell’s troops, and the various class groupings in the French revolution. As well as in the Paris Commune and the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg wanted the German Communist Party to be a nucleus of this kind.
Given that the masses, when they unite, can now defeat capitalism and build socialism, all efforts must be focused on the goal of preparing the masses for this task. The preparation of the masses must be the sole objective.
Compromises, opportunism, the suppression of free expression, the deception of the masses, concealment of the intentions and the lust for power of the party or its leadership—all of this is now absolutely harmful. As has been proven in Germany, Hungary and Bavaria, these things lead the proletariat to destruction.
Instead of taking the pure way, we see, as in the conduct described above, that the leadership of the Communist Party applies an erroneous tactic, and aspires to power (!) for the party and for itself.
We see how it concludes compromises and competes with the other parties for popularity. We see that to achieve these goals it even suppresses freedom of expression.
Recent examples include its collaboration with Kolthek and its friendly attitude towards the NAS, 16 its involvement (in competition with the NVV) in the municipal council’s campaign to raise money for hunger relief in Vienna, its demand for nationalization of the land (in competition with the SDAP’s socialization program), which is also counterrevolutionary at this juncture, and its presentation of England (where the situation could become revolutionary, but where the workers still have done nothing revolutionary, and where, should English capital survive the crisis, the workers could become collaborators in the oppression of the international proletariat) as a model.
Such opportunism proves that the goal of the leadership of the Communist Party is not the enlightenment of the masses, but power for the Party and its leadership. Expressed in one cold, clear phrase: The leadership is not building the party for communism, but using communism as a means for the aggrandizement and power of the party and its leadership.
That is what I have been fighting against for the last three years.
I hope that this summary explains my struggle on behalf of the workers. My struggle is founded on good reasons, reality has proven it to be correct, and I had no other purpose in mind than to achieve the revolutionary unity of the international proletariat, which is absolutely necessary for the triumph of the revolution; this struggle, like the previous one I led against Troelstra, was for the revolutionary unity of the Dutch proletariat.17
I once again insist, before the forum of all the comrades and friends of the struggle: The leadership of the Communist Party has failed on every question of importance over the last few years: Kerensky’s offensive, decisive for the Russian revolution; English and North American imperialism, which is the bastion of the counterrevolution; the League of Nations and the Peace of Versailles, which are the principle weapons against the revolution; as well as in relation to various questions of primary importance in domestic Dutch politics, and its evaluation of the German revolution, which is the nucleus of the world revolution. In all of these international issues, events have proven that I was right. My tactic has been vindicated on every point.
Let us put aside this insignificant conflict within the Dutch party, and concentrate on the most important facts regarding the great international movement of the proletariat.
We note that the second phase of the history of the evolution of socialism is coming to an end, or has already concluded. The first phase was the socialism of the time before Marx: Utopia. The second was the phase of the development of socialism as a science—from 1847, the year of the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, until the Russian revolution in 1917. The third phase began in that year: socialism in action.
Fact number one is the fact that the second phase has ended.
Fact number two is the discovery of the form by which the revolution and socialism can become a reality: the soviets, the workers councils. Born in the shops and the factories, they are spreading throughout all of society. They grant, from below, all economic and political power to the laboring classes. Sole, exclusive power. Dictatorship. They are building the new state which replaces the old one, which will finally “die”, and will be transformed into a new society, which will no longer know class rule.
Fact number three—as important as the dictatorship and the workers councils—is the unification of the international proletariat, which is finally beginning to take place. In 1847, Marx and Engels called upon the proletarians of all countries: “Unite”. But seventy-six years had to pass before the proletarians could heed that call. It was the concentration of capital into industrial syndicates and trusts, it was monopoly and finance capital, it was the world war, it was imperialism, which finally brought the proletariat together into a united front. The Third International of Moscow is the embodiment and the symbol of this fact.
Now we see the workers take up the fight in every country, in the revolution against monopoly, against big finance capital, against imperialism, against world capital.
Now we see the soviets arising in various forms everywhere.
Now we see the coming of international unity everywhere. We see that the revolutionary workers of all countries are uniting against imperialism, that they are joining together under one watchword—workers councils—that the Moscow International is assuming their leadership, that they are joining together to fight all imperialisms, that they view imperialism as a single whole, and that they are beginning to form a single united front against it.
And this international unity must continue to grow.
Capitalism itself guarantees that it will.
It guarantees the new imperialism; it guarantees the recent and upcoming wars, and the next world war, which already threateningly looms.
It guarantees the consequences of this first world war and of the Peace of Versailles.
And most of all, it guarantees the identity of the leaders of the imperialist powers: England and the United States.
It also guarantees the new League of Nations, in which, under these leaders, world imperialism will organize itself against the world proletariat, which alone compels the proletariat to unite.
Now, the League of Nations and its leading powers have already formed large armies: the White Guards of the Baltic, of Poland, Hungary, of the Balkan states, of Romania, Germany. And if the revolution advances towards the west, these armies will be joined by French, Italian, English, Belgian, Dutch, and Scandinavian White Guards. Only then will international capital really be in mortal danger.
Against all of these forces, the international proletariat will join together more and more, and its unity will be created by the struggle against the power of international capital.
There can be no doubt that an opportunist tendency can be perceived in a large proportion of western European communists. In Germany, we encounter it in the left wing of the Independents and in the communists who follow the “Zentrale”, in England in the British Socialist Party, in Holland in the Communist Party, under the leadership of Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn. In other countries the old opportunist tactic is revived, or it was never abandoned, which gives more power to the leaders than to the masses. The International itself is also proceeding in this direction. But this cannot last very long: the struggle is becoming more merciless, misery grows without end, and imperialism grows implacably.
And when the working class of every nation has been united in one struggle against finance capital, against monopoly, against imperialism, which organize and rule all of society, and against its leaders, against imperialism as a whole, when this has been carried out everywhere in the same way and under the same watchwords, when all those who create capital unite against all imperialisms, viewing them as a single whole, when, from this perspective, they join together by their own will, forming a single whole, then no power will be able to resist them, and they will be victorious.
The entire international struggle, each and every national struggle which is now taking place, contributes to this process of unification, it comprises this process.
Those who feel—like the editorial committee of the Tribune—that this international unity of the proletariat against international imperialism is still a utopia, something impossible; that the proletariat only has to defend itself against its own imperialism (I naturally acknowledge this necessity, I have never doubted that this is the task which is nearest at hand); and that this is the way to victory, such people once again prove that, first, they do not understand imperialism, and second, they are blind to reality.
They are the naïve souls who, seeing how easily the Russian revolution won its first battles, now think that it will be the same everywhere else.
But the world revolution is not so easy and so quick.
The world revolution is a long-term revolution, it requires endless efforts, and will have its times of advance and its times of reflux.
It can only win by means of unity.
The adjustment of tactics and their subordination to, their determination by, their dissolution into, international tactics, is therefore the sole precondition for its victory.
Just as, in the past, the workers of one trade in one workshop joined one association, compelled by one boss to fight one struggle; and later, the workers of one trade in one city did the same, compelled by the city’s owning class; then the workers of one trade in one country, compelled by the owning class of the nation; and, as the workers of all countries are joining parties opposed to the bourgeoisie, so now for the first time the proletarians of all countries are uniting, compelled to do so by monopoly, finance capital and the imperialism of all nations.
Those who do not believe in the necessity of this union of the world proletariat in one front against world imperialism, which they consider to be impossible, overlook the fact that the prior unions mentioned above, such as in one workshop, in one city, in one trade, in one country, in one party, also seemed impossible. But they became realities nonetheless.
International unity in one front against international imperialism will also become a reality. The proletariat of Germany, England, France, America, the proletariat of every country will unite with the Russian proletariat.
The Dutch proletariat will also be a part of this, despite the errors of its leaders. Perhaps, we hope, these leaders will exchange their current tactics for better ones.
This struggle, this process of unity against world imperialism, that is, against the existence of capital itself, is the world revolution, in which the Russian and German revolutions are only episodes. This unity against all imperialisms combined, against world imperialism as a whole, this unification of the world proletariat by the world imperialism of global capital—and by its struggle against the latter—this unity for the world revolution, is what I want to foment with my struggle against the leadership of the Communist Party, and with my recent theoretical-Marxist propaganda.
And this struggle for unity is becoming the driving force behind the actions of the masses, their workers councils and the revolutionary struggle in each nation.
I will repeat once more, for the last time: if, during the coming spring, the Russian revolution is attacked again, or if, during this summer, or thereafter, the revolution breaks out again in Germany18 —in Germany, where the situation is probably more revolutionary than anywhere else—in Germany, which is the key and the gateway of the world revolution, and whose revolution is infinitely more important than the Russian revolution, because its success would endanger English and American capital, and world capital as well—or if a revolution breaks out in another great power, in France or England, then the unity of the world proletariat against Anglo-American-French-German capital, against world capital, will be necessary.19
The Dutch proletariat and the international proletariat have to be prepared for this eventuality, and they have to prepare today.
And even if the world revolution is defeated, if the whole world war and the current bitter struggle turn out to have been a lesson, a test for the international proletariat, from which it must learn to form one single revolutionary unit, then unity is also the first and principle requirement, and the guarantee of victory, which will soon be achieved.
In any case, the international tactics which I defend are necessary, they must be combined with the national revolution, they must be one and the same thing.
Because the world revolution will not only take place in national struggles, but in a great international struggle between labor and capital, between communism and capitalism.
A theoretician can never do more than show the workers the final goal of the movement, as accurately as he can, and the road to be followed in order to reach this goal. This, not being a leader of the masses, is his task.
The world proletariat, then—which, by means of action, through the soviets and by way of the national revolutionary struggle, achieves global unity against the organized imperialism of global capital, and thus brings about the world revolution and victory—will more exactly and correctly formulate my last word of propaganda for scientific socialism in Holland.
With this, I conclude—at least for the moment—my theoretical propaganda for communism here in Holland, in order to try to make a contribution to the development of communism elsewhere—today, when it is really coming to life.
H. Gorter, Het opportunisme in de Nederlandsche Communistische Partij, Amsterdam, 1921. The main part of the pamphlet was completed in August 1919; its publication was postponed due to a paper shortage. Gorter extended his argument to well into 1920 by means of a large number of footnotes. This translation published in an online collection of texts as appendix to The Communist Left in Germany, taken from the Collective Action Notes website.
- 1 It will soon be possible to obtain a general perspective on my theoretical labors in the form of ten pamphlets which will appear as a complete series under the title, “Het Communisme”: I. The Communist Manifesto (my translation); II. The Fundamentals of Communism; III. Communism versus Anarchism and Syndicalism; IV. Communism versus Revisionism and Reformism; V. Historical Materialism; VI. Class Morality; VII. Imperialism, the World War and Social Democracy; VIII. The World Revolution; IX. Lenin’s The State and Revolution (my translation); X. Communism. These pamphlets, most of which were published long ago, have been updated to take account of the latest developments relating to imperialism, the world war and the world revolution. Several of them, originally published in Dutch, have been translated into other languages, primarily German. See the bibliography. Although these works have long been ready to go to press, their publication was postponed due to a lack of paper until 1920.
- 2 I opposed this tactic of the Tribune (in the issue of February 8, 1918); my first argument was as follows: just as the domestic policy of the ruling classes divides the workers by means of such stereotypes as religious and liberal, conservative and democratic, etc.—differences which have practically been eliminated precisely by imperialism—the imperialists now divide the workers, only on a much wider scale, on a world scale, into the followers of one imperialism or another. It is only by means of this division that the imperialists of all nations are now achieving their goal. What, then, does one accomplish by fighting German imperialism with more vigor than one employs against Anglo-American imperialism? One supports the lie upon which the division of the workers is based.
- 3 That the Russian communists agreed with me on this issue, and would certainly not have approved of the Tribune’s position, is clear. Trotsky writes, in Soviet Power and International Imperialism: “The offensive of June 18, Kerensky’s offensive, was the most terrible blow struck against the working classes of all countries, as well as the most terrible blow struck against the Russian revolution.” Terrible, because the toiling masses of all countries expected “that the Russian February Revolution would show itself in its full magnitude and teach something new”, and then had to see that the new government pursued the same “rapacious” goals as Czarism. Trotsky also saw the Peace of Brest-Litovsk as one more consequence of the (failed) June 1917 offensive. L. Trotsky, Die Sowjet-Macht und der internationale Imperialismus, April 21, 1918, Moscow, Belp-Bern, pp. 27-28. Pannekoek, as well, immediately criticized the Tribune—with the opportunists’ customary distortions, the Tribune later denied having taken this position.
- 4 We must at this point briefly insist upon the fact that we have always completely approved of the struggle against German imperialism. We have only demanded that the Entente be fought as well.
- 5 This question was of the utmost importance, since, prior to the revolution, an absolutely pure party is needed, which will accept no compromises of any kind.
- 6 The attempt of the United States to strengthen Yugoslavia at Italy’s expense is based on this policy. The United States, like England, wants a balance of forces on the continent, which would give them predominance, rendering Europe powerless.
- 7 I have also refuted these notions in over twenty pages of my pamphlet on imperialism.
- 8 This is what I said in the Tribune of November 7, 1918: The revolutionary proletariat of Holland is capable of understanding this simple revolutionary tactic, which says: support no imperialism. The decisive reason, above and beyond all the other reasons (such as war, hunger, etc.)—the international reason for the Dutch proletariat not to send food to Germany during the war, was that the proletariat must not support any imperialism.
The decisive international reason, the sole valid reason from the international revolutionary point of view, not to loan ships to America and not to allow it to use any bases in the Netherlands, is that the proletariat must not support any imperialism.
The Dutch proletariat must prove to the entire world that it is the enemy of all imperialisms, that it stands in solidarity with the proletariat of all nations, and that is why it fights every imperialism, even if it must itself suffer as a result.
- 9 I am not saying that such action (as I had recommended) would have been successful at that time in Holland. It is a question of principle, of the beginning of the correct tactic.
When I fought against Troelstra’s position on the question of education policy, many people thought that my objections were exaggerated. They did not think the danger was so serious. And now look at what has happened to that party (the SDAP) and to the educational system of the Dutch proletariat!
- 10 Even today, the editorial committee will not declare its principled opposition to the Entente and the United States. A brief article on a subsidiary issue, Persia, Russia—that is all. U.S. and English policy is not attacked in its totality, or in detail. Wilson and Lloyd George are not characterized in the same way as Hindenburg and Ludendorff, nor is democracy treated the same way as monarchy! They will not even take a stand on the League of Nations, etc., etc.
The foreign affairs editor, Van Ravensteyn, has yet to publish even one article in the Tribune which opposes the two leading capitalist powers.
- 11 See also the article in the journal of the Third International: “Down with the Peace of Versailles”. “Nieder mit dem Versailler Frieden. Aufruf des Exekutivkomitees der Kommunistischen Internationale an die Werktätigen der ganzen Welt”, in: Die Kommunistische Internationale, Year One, No. 2, June 1919, p. 165, et seq. “Thesen uber die Politik der Entente augenommen auf dem I. Kongress der Kommunistischen Internationale am 6 Marz 1919”, in: Der I. und II. Kongress der Kommunistischen Internationale. Dokumente der Kongresse und Reden, W. I. Lenin, Berlin (East), 1959, pp. 102-103.
- 12 One example among many will demonstrate the Tribune’s lack of understanding of and its support for Entente imperialism: When the Council Republic was proclaimed in Hungary, the Tribune wrote that one could be certain that the Entente would not try to destroy it…because General Smuts had been ordered to reach a compromise! Shortly thereafter the Entente annihilated the Council Republic.
- 13 Even if the Hohenzollerns return to power.
- 14 This has changed somewhat, as I have said. In their position on the League of Nations, for example. But in all the points mentioned above, they have still only gone halfway. The whole truth is not told. They leave one door open in case English capitalism should put up some resistance and save world capitalism. But they do not tell the workers the real reason for this opportunism. And what is one to think of such a leadership, which has failed on all the principle questions, and only revises its positions when this is suitable for opportunist motives? Even in the summer of 1920, a regular contributor to the Tribune wrote that the Polish aggression against Russia was not supported by French imperialism, and the editors expressed their agreement. And this, today, in 1920!
- 15 Which was naturally a failure, as can now be clearly seen.
- 16 The same phenomenon, but on a larger scale, and not so petite-bourgeois, can be seen in the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Germany, and in the British Socialist Party in England. Everywhere, one notes an eagerness to put communism at the service of the parties. Over the long term, of course, this eagerness has no prospect for success; it must nevertheless be fought with firmness. The phenomenon was also much in evidence in the way the last international conference in Amsterdam was organized.
- 17 A few more words about my personal experiences in this struggle against the leadership of the Communist Party:
After having had to fight, as I have said, for nine months, until July 1918, to get two articles published, during the latter half of 1918 I published eight or ten more articles against the Entente and the policy of the Communist Party (the two matters being inseparable).
But the only reason those articles were published, was because I sent them to comrade Pannekoek (he met me outside of Holland), and threatened the editorial committee that if they were not published within two weeks, they would be published in pamphlet form.
All the methods customarily used by Troelstra, were used against me by the editorial committee of the Tribune.
First of all, absolute silence. The editorial committee has never undertaken an in-depth analysis of the principle issue, Anglo-American imperialism. It desired that the comrades remain ignorant of this issue.
They tried to resort to some faithful friends to respond to my challenge, such as V.L., “Opmerker”, etc. (V.L.=van Leuven, who published interesting articles on economic questions in the Tribune, a delegate to the Second Congress of the Communist International in July-August 1920; Opmerker (“Observer”)=K. van Langeraad, a regular contributor to the Tribune and the Nieuwe Tijd), who, in this case, took pride in the selfsame myopia in defending the editorial committee.
They tried to present the issue as if I had defined the two imperialisms as being “equal for the proletariat”, when I had actually insisted precisely on their differences. They spoke of “working with the philosopher’s stone, of wanting to explain the inexplicable, a lack of evidence, illusionist, doctrinaire, not seeing reality, fantasies”, etc.
Finally, they even went so far as to invoke the opposition of those who really labor for the party and those who are theoreticians.
All of this was in response to my first two articles against the two imperialisms. Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn also expressed their “absolute disagreement” with my pamphlet, “The World Revolution”. Foreign communists judged otherwise. Izvestia and Pravda immediately published the two articles, and the committee for prisoners of war in Russia reprinted them in a series in various languages—the same articles which could only be published here after a nine-month delay. The pamphlets have now been translated into eight or nine European languages.
Then they gave the whole affair a personal dimension, exactly as Troelstra had done before. I had offended the leadership (!!). In this manner they tried to divert the comrades’ attention and to slander me in the comrades’ eyes. In relation to which, I have only this to say: after he returned to Holland in December 1918, I knew that Wijnkoop was sometimes personally in danger. I immediately offered to accompany him whenever it was necessary that he expose himself to danger; and the first time he asked me to do so, I immediately consented. Since he was in no condition to appear in public as an orator, I felt an obligation to help him, as we had together founded the SDP and during the SDP’s first few years we shared good times and bad times in that party. I believe that this proves that one can by no means attribute personal motives to my dissent. I was only interested in international unity. I could no longer tolerate the situation in Holland, so I decided to seek another road so that I could freely express my opinion. I asked the party and its leadership to appoint me as a foreign correspondent for the Tribune: a position independent of the editorial committee.. Naturally, I did not want to be subjected once again to the suppression of my freedom of expression, in matters of such vital interest to the international proletariat. And imagine what such an act of suppression would signify in revolutionary times! I demanded an absolutely free hand as a correspondent, without editorial control or censorship, which oppress free expression and criticism. My whole past in the SDAP, the SDP and the CP, and above all the correctness of my theory of imperialism, justify my desire for this freedom.
I submitted this request four times. The first time was in a letter (already in the summer of 1917) to the editorial committee of the Tribune. At that time I told them that, according to my standards, their foreign policy was too nationalistic, and that was why I proposed that they accept my collaboration. They did not accept my proposal. Later, in an article in the Tribune in November, I made the same proposal to the party, after having made every effort during the previous year to get my views published regularly in the Tribune.
Once more I submitted my request to the party, in a letter which was distributed at the party congress in November 1918. Finally, my party local at Bussum submitted the same motion at the June 1919 party congress, and the Enschede local followed suit in 1920. In every case the answer was no.
Two Congresses ago, Wijnkoop said that the motion should not be approved “because Gorter is opposed to the editorial committee”. The question was not asked, then, whether I had not been showing the Dutch proletariat the road to follow, or whether I was probably correct on this occasion, too, or whether my theory was correct, or whether it was of use to the national and international proletariat, or whether reality had not proven me right on the most important issue for the proletariat. He only said: Gorter is opposed to the editorial committee, opposed to us. He only said: His opposition is a hindrance (that is, a hindrance to the petty everyday business of the party). Therefore: Expel him—as in the times of Troelstra. And the very same “leaders” who have made it impossible for me to carry on with my work, now accuse me of not working! In addition, Wijnkoop has stooped so low as to try to put an end to my influence both here and abroad, having, for example, personally told Lenin that I was a neurotic!
A very significant example of Wijnkoop’s efforts against me took place quite recently: I have been explaining to the workers that the German revolution would most probably break out once again, and declared that it would be the cornerstone for Western Europe. Wijnkoop has for the last six months publicly declared that this is practically impossible, and has instead offered the workers of England as an example. At the present time, the overwhelming majority of the English workers reject direct action; in Germany, however, the revolution is more powerful than ever. An honorable fighter would now have to say: “Fortunately, I was mistaken”. A decent fighter: “My adversary was correct”. Wijnkoop, with his customary false and rigid attitude, calls me a windbag and praises his own perspicacity.
Finally, Wijnkoop and Van Ravensteyn have refused to participate with me on a commission for international affairs established here by the Third International. They first proposed that all decisions should be submitted to the presidency of the Dutch party, and when this was rejected, they refused any and all collaboration with me! They have thus achieved their goal: by rejecting my collaboration as a staff member of the Tribune they separated me from domestic activity, and by their refusal to collaborate with me on the international affairs commission they are separating me from international activity. Obviously, the Dutch workers movement still has not rid itself of petty-bourgeois tyranny, which has burdened it since its origins. I would also like to briefly relate the position of the editorial committee of the Nieuwe Tijd. Both Pannekoek and H. Roland-Holst, in 1917, 1918 and again in 1919, refused to give me any support. They were responsible for the fact that a hard-hitting article I wrote in defense of Luteraan’s excellent exposition of his dissenting views was not published in the Tribune. They did not undertake any kind of direct struggle against opportunism in the Communist Party. When, in June 1919, I wanted to publish an article decrying the position of the party leadership on the Versailles Peace Treaty in the Nieuwe Tijd, I was prevented from doing so. And immediately afterwards, a personal attack against me was published in the same journal. I am only mentioning this here in order to warn the editorial committee of the Nieuwe Tijd that the only way to preserve revolutionary Marxist tactics in Holland is to be prepared to defend them in international politics as well, as they previously did alongside me. At the same time, I wish to remind them that our group of Marxist theoreticians is the only group to have resisted the opportunist trend in Western Europe. It is therefore incumbent upon us to defend Marxist principles in the Third International as well.
- 18 This has now taken place. The heroic German proletariat, which must overcome infinitely more difficulties than the Russians, has once again risen. The German revolution, as Marx said, will be profound.
- 19 English troops have already intervened, in the March 1920 general strike.
- 20 Some notes were added later.