I. Speech by Hugo Eberlein, delegate of the German Communist Party, at the founding congress of the Third International (Third Session, March 4, 1919)
Comrades! We have already discussed at length at the beginning of the conference the question as to whether this conference should become a congress at which the Third International is to be founded or whether we ought to first prepare for its founding. We agree at the urging of the German delegation, which was not authorized1 to vote for immediate founding, that this should be a conference preparing the founding of the Third International, which act would occur later. Since in spite of that decision, some comrades are again attempting to establish the Third International immediately, I feel compelled to briefly explain to you what motivated us to advise against going on with the founding now. When it is stated that the founding of the Third International is an absolute necessity, we venture to dispute this. If it is said that the proletariat needs in its struggle above all an intellectual center, it can also be said that such a center already exists, and that all those elements which have come together on the basis of the council system have thereby already separated themselves from all the other elements in the working class who are still inclined toward bourgeois democracy; we see this separation taking place everywhere.
But a Third International cannot merely be an intellectual center, not merely an institution at which theoreticians deliver heated speeches to each other; it must be the basis for organizational power. If we want to make a useful instrument of the Third International, if we want to forge this International into a weapon, then the preconditions for it must obtain. This question cannot be raised or judged alone from an intellectual standpoint; rather we must ask ourselves objectively if the organizational bases exist. I always have the feeling that the comrades pressing for founding are letting themselves be very much influenced by the development of the Second International, and that they wish to start an organization in competition with the Berne Conference.2 That seems less important to us, and when it is said that a clarification is necessary or else all doubtful elements will go over to the Yellow International, then I say that the founding of the Third International will not stop those who are today still going over to the other side. If they are still going over, then they belong there.
But the most important question concerning the founding of a Third International is, what do we want, what platform makes it possible for us to join with one another? The reports from the comrades of the different countries showed that the ideas as to activity, as to the means toward the end, were unknown to them, and when the delegations from the different countries came here, they could not have come with the decision to participate at the founding of the Third International. It is their tasks to inform their memberships first, and even the invitation assumes this, as it reads on the first page.
“All these circumstances compel us to take the initiative to bring on the agenda for discussion the question of calling together an international congress of revolutionary proletarian parties.”
Hence, already in the invitation it is said that we must first examine the question here whether it is possible to call the comrades together to a founding congress. That the ignorance concerning the goals and directions of the individual parties was great as long as there was no discussion here is shown by the letter from Longuet,3 a comrade active in political life who sympathizes with the center but who still thinks it is possible for us to participate in the Berne Conference. We in Germany did not know either how great the contradictions among the parties were, and when we left Germany I was prepared for deep disagreements on the various issues. I must say that we are unanimous on most questions, but we did know that beforehand.
If we want to proceed with the founding of the Third International, then we must first tell the world where we stand, first explain which path it is upon which we can and want to unite. It is not true to say that the Third International was already founded at Zimmerwald. The Zimmerwald movement fell apart a long time ago, and only the small part of it left can be considered for cooperation later on. On the one hand, all these things advise against establishing the Third International now, but it is organizational issues which warn us against it on the other. For what do we have? There are real communist parties in only a few countries; in most others, they have been created within the last few weeks, and in several countries communists have as yet no organizations.
I am astonished to hear the delegate from Sweden propose the founding of the Third International when he must admit that there is as yet no purely communist organization in Sweden, but merely a large communist group within the Swedish Social Democratic party. We know that in Switzerland and other countries real parties do not exist and still have to be created, so that the comrades there can only speak in the name of groups. Can they really say who stands behind them today: Finland, Russia, Sweden, Austria-Hungary, and from the Balkans not even the whole Federation? The delegates from Greece and Serbia do not recognize Rakovsky4 as their representative. All of western Europe is missing: Belgium and Italy are not represented; the Swiss delegates cannot speak in the name of one party; France, England, Spain and Portugal are missing; and America is also not in a position to say which parties would stand with us. There are so few organizations participating in the founding of the Third International that it is even difficult to make it all public. It is therefore necessary that we make our platform known to the world before we go on with the founding, and then call upon the communist organizations to declare their willingness to create the Third International with us.
Communist organizations must be promoted, for it is no longer possible to work with Kautsky and Scheidemann. I strongly urge you not to establish the Third International and beg you not to act too quickly, but to call together in the shortest possible time a congress at which the new international will be founded, an international which will really have power behind it.
Those are the reservations which my organization has about the immediate establishment of the Third International, and I beg you to consider in a mature fashion if it is advisable to proceed with the founding on such a weak basis.
(From Der 1. Kongress der Kommunistichen Internationale. Protokoll der Verhandlungen in Moskau vom 2. bis zum 19. [6.] März 1919 (Hamburg, 1921); reprinted in Helmut Gruber, ed., International Communism in the Era of Lenin. A Documentary History, Anchor Books, Garden City, New York, 1972, pp. 79-82)
II. List of the more important Left Communists in 1918
N. Antonov (Luikn)
S. I. Bobinsky
N. I. Bukharin
Ya. Fenigshtein (Doletsky)
V. N. Yakovleva
A. Lomov (Oppokov)
N. Lukina (Bukharina)
V. G. Myasnikov
V. Osinsky (Obolensky)
M. Saveliev (I. Vetrov)
I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov
V. M. Smirnov
M. Vasiliev (Saratov)
B. G. Zul’
(Taken from “Appendix B” of Leonard Schapiro’s book, The Origin of the Communist Autocracy: Political Opposition in the Soviet State. First Phase, 1917-1922, op. cit., p. 366)
III. Excerpt from N. Osinski’s article entitled, “On the Construction of Socialism”, published in issues Nos. 1 and 2 of The Communist in response to Lenin’s text, “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Power”
Recent events, within the majority of our party, have led to a “new orientation” and to new problematics. We are not speaking of foreign policy but of domestic policy and especially economic policy.
This new orientation, which comes from comrade Lenin, is as follows: until the end of January 1918 we underwent a difficult period of civil war, a time of the sudden destruction of forces and of the political and economic orders that those forces defended. Now that time has passed and a new period has begun: a period of concrete and positive labor for the “organic construction” of a new society. On the one hand, we must construct socialism. On the other hand, we must first of all create the order that everyone demands, and we must put an end to disorder, indiscipline and corruption. Because we are now strong, because our enemies have been annihilated, we must not fear to use the social forces that were previously opposed to us. We must therefore allow the “intellectuals”, who previously sabotaged our efforts, to work for us. They used to work on behalf of capital in exchange for money. We, too, can buy them with money. It is among the intellectuals that we shall find those organizers of production, those “captains of industry” who organized the economy for capital, and there are many of them. Thus, just as we were obliged to use the Czarist officers to help us build the Red Army, so we are likewise obliged to use the services of the organizers of trusts so that we may buy the organization of socialism at a low price.
“Teach the organization of socialism to the organizers of trusts”; such is the maxim of comrade Lenin. Another of his maxims is “Put an end to negligence”. Negligence, desertion, theft; everything that flourishes on our national soil is also prevalent at every level of the organizations that direct the various sectors of the economy. “Do not pilfer, do not be lazy, above all keep your accounts up to date”; these simple petty bourgeois appeals must be our leading principles. We have to make everyone (employees, workers, paper pushers) understand that they cannot just consume, but they must also perform adequate labor. To achieve this, self-discipline and comradery are necessary, but so is the reinforcement of the dictatorial power of the commissars who have been elected by the Soviets and, in short, have the job of seeing to it that people work rather than just talk. The productivity of labor must be increased in the factories by means of the introduction of piecework wages and wage incentives for more productive workers, and the same goes for the railroads, etc. We must also adopt the American Taylor System, which combines hourly wages and piecework wages: thus, one will be paid not just for the quantity of goods one has produced, but also in consideration of the time saved in production.
Those responsible for this “new organization” claim that all of this will rapidly lead to the construction of socialism and that their new conception of political problems is exclusively determined by the existence within the country of a new organic period. All of these new organizations have appeared, however, surprisingly enough, precisely at the moment of the signing of the peace treaty, in conjunction with that retreat before world capital that was accepted as the basis of the imposed peace, with the enormous concessions to foreign imperialism that it entails. The war was fought not only for the conquest of the country, of its territory; but also in order to economically incorporate this territory into the grasp of the tentacles of capital. The imperialist powers assure their rule with these peace-conquests in order to derive profits from the economy of the defeated country. Nonetheless, this new “socialist” organic period, according to comrade Lenin himself, can commence thanks to the alliance and the establishment of relations with foreign capital, from whom he seeks to obtain money, engineers, weapons, military experts and even troops. It can make its debut with the creation of an official regular army, called the “red army”, which, however, is being formed in close (too close, and too dangerous) collaboration with Czarist officers and generals.5
IV. The Foreign Policy of the USSR (an article from L’Internationale, the journal of Union Communiste—see note at the end of the article—No. 33, December 10, 1937)
This policy includes both relations with capitalist states and putting pressure on these states via the intermediary of the organizations that are part of the Third International. These two factors are intimately related and the USSR has increasingly subordinated the second factor to the first.
The diplomacy of the USSR, like that of all countries of our time, depends on its objective position vis-à-vis the victors of Versailles and the League of Nations.
It is understood that the USSR was not one of the beneficiaries of the Treaty of Versailles, and after Brest-Litovsk it was separated from the Entente and the negotiations leading to the founding of the League of Nations. In this regard it was like Germany, the principle victim of Versailles.
The United States, which did not join the League of Nations, then moved closer to these two countries, in which it was considering capital investments. We shall also point out in this connection that for America, the Soviet Union was a very vigilant watchdog over Japan.
The simple bourgeois diplomacy that the Bolsheviks then adopted required, therefore, that the first Soviet-imperialist agreements should be established within the framework of this kind of anti-Entente bloc. This state of affairs was clearly illustrated by the Soviet Union’s overtures to the United States and the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo with Germany.
The formula, “make use of inter-imperialist contradictions”, which the Bolsheviks wanted to utilize in a revolutionary way and upon the basis of which they were ready to justify everything they did in the name of Marxism, was really nothing other than the very definition of bourgeois diplomacy. When a bourgeois state joins an imperialist bloc it does so in order to make use of the contradictions that exist between the countries with which it is allied and the countries of the enemy bloc.
The Soviet Union, in opposition to France, England and the League of Nations, sought to politically justify its stance in the eyes of workers, or more precisely speaking, the USSR sought to obtain support for its policies from the communist organizations, and made its diplomacy one of the planks of the program of the Third International.
The Entente and the League of Nations were depicted as an especially counter-revolutionary coalition against the domestic regime of the USSR; in reality, Germany and the United States were no less hostile to the October Revolution than were the member states of the League of Nations. The League of Nations in particular was defined with a special degree of horror as a “den of imperialist bandits”; but the Genoa Conference of 1922 was a meeting of these bandits yet Chicherin was sent to attend it and there he made a speech that was overflowing with good will and obsequiousness. And the USSR responded to various appeals from this “den of imperialist bandits” (the Naval Conference of 1923, the Disarmament Conference of 1927).
When the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Rapallo, the Communist International concealed its capitalist character behind a theory of the defense of the vanquished; the workers of all countries would be invited to feel compassion for the German bourgeoisie who were robbed and crushed by the reparations.
During the entire period of Leninist power, the world’s states were busy rebuilding their economies, which had been disrupted by the war; but all their deeds were hidden behind a veil of false pacifist pretenses. Despite the propaganda of the Third International, the USSR could not resist the temptation to participate in this concert of pacifist deception. Especially in 1922, in April in Genoa, in July in The Hague, and then in 1923 and the Disarmament Conference of 1927.
In 1921, another kind of diplomacy began: the non-aggression pacts that are still being negotiated in our day. So the Soviet Union signed non-aggression pacts with Persia, Afghanistan, China, etc.; and then later the non-aggression pact with Italy and almost all the other imperialist countries. The Bolsheviks, who at first refused to promise the countries of the Entente that they would not tolerate revolutionary activity against them, have since given political guarantees of the following kind to Afghanistan and Persia:
“The contracting parties will not allow and will prevent the use of their territory for the organization and activity of groups, or of isolated persons, who harm the other contracting party by agitating for the overthrow of the state regime” (1936).
This brief overview of Russia’s foreign policy during the Leninist period of the USSR, shows that one cannot discover a sharp distinction between Leninist and Stalinist policy; in this domain, as in the others, the Bolsheviks had paved, under the pretext of necessity, the road to Stalinism.
Stalin’s entry into the League of Nations, for example, was not actually a betrayal of any kind, but only a contradiction with the political propaganda of the Third International from the previous period that was disseminated for the purpose of supporting the economic position of the USSR against the Entente.
A treaty like the one signed at Rapallo in 1922 was a compromise so dangerous and so harmful that the Bolsheviks had to engage in special efforts to make it appear to be a model revolutionary achievement. On May 18, 1922, the Central Executive Committee of the USSR “expressed its satisfaction with the Russo-German treaty signed at Rapallo, and considers it to be the only justifiable solution to escape the difficulties, the chaos and the dangers of war”.
Lenin’s government thus retreated before the pressure of imperialism and found capitulation to be the “only justifiable solution” to the imperialist offensive, which it referred to as “difficulties, the chaos and the dangers of war”. The revolutionary struggle of the Russian proletariat was represented, then, by diplomatic deals but, in relation to the Revolution of October, Rapallo signified defeat on the international plane and it was on the basis of a whole series of such defeats that Stalinism would emerge and grow, that is, the internal defeat.
The Stalinist diplomacy that followed would assume a counterrevolutionary character when the maturation of the exploiting class allowed the USSR to categorically declare its position with regard to the new international situation: the period of imperialist pacifism would give way to the period of the intensive preparation for a new imperialist war.
Stalin, after having changed sides, joined the League of Nations, signed the Franco-Soviet Accord, gave his approval for and material aid to the accelerated rearmament of French capitalism: the USSR would do its part to help bring about a Sacred Union in all the countries that might be its allies; in the conflicts that were to break out as so many preludes to the world war, the USSR would become involved in the shady deals of the League of Nations (in particular, with regard to Ethiopia), the Committee for Non-Intervention with regard to Spain, and the Brussels Committee with regard to China. Everything that could stand in the way of this preparation for war will be fought and crushed: the USSR will play the role of the vanguard of the counterrevolution.
All Stalinist diplomacy, as well as the domestic Soviet regime, forbids one in advance from speaking of a class opposition between the USSR and the other capitalist countries. The USSR will be an object of aggression just like any other country; in the eyes of the other nations, it is nothing but a big competitor in the world market. And the countries that are opposed to the USSR are hostile to its economic positions, and not to its regime, which looks more like that of the fascist states, its “enemies”, than like that of the democratic countries, its “allies”.
The Soviet bureaucracy is not defending proletarian democracy, since it abolished that democracy; it is not defending the welfare of the working class, since it exploits them; it is not defending the power of the Soviets and the trade unions, since they no longer have any power.
What Stalinism is defending (and what the proletariat does not have to defend) are the markets required for its trade, and the Russian territory where it “possesses” immense wealth and millions of workers to exploit.
The Third International: an instrument of the Russian state
By saying that the workers’ state can only survive with the help of the international revolutionary movement, the communists want to be understood as saying that the USSR, as a result of domestic difficulties experienced by the bourgeois governments, could expect that some day the proletariat will come to power in enough countries to form an insurmountable bloc. The action of the workers of all countries would therefore constitute both an obstacle to imperialist intervention in the USSR and the process leading to the formation of a new revolutionary power.
But the retreat of the workers movement in all countries has led the Bolshevik government to no longer expect or to help facilitate the process of a new revolution, but to simply use workers agitation as a means to exert pressure on the capitalist countries.
A communist opposition in a bourgeois nation reinforces the diplomatic and economic position of the USSR, but the outbreak of a new revolution could not, on the other hand, do anything but disturb the conversations of the Soviet ambassadors and create difficulties for the USSR.
In this conceptual framework, the Treaty of Rapallo certainly had a great deal of influence on the policy of the Third International: the “negligence” of the Russian leaders of the Komintern with respect to the revolutionary movement of 1923 in Germany can be explained easily by the desire not to jeopardize the economic assistance the Soviet Union was receiving from Germany by supporting a revolutionary movement that might fail.
Later, Stalin’s decision in 1927 to surrender the proletariat to Chang Kai-Shek may be explained by the same reasons. Ultimately, the entire disastrous policy of the Third International, its complete subordination to the Russian state from its very inception, must be understood within the context of such considerations.
Today, the USSR has conferred, as in all domains, an openly counterrevolutionary character on the directives that it sends to foreign communist organizations. The reconciliation with social democracy, the policy of the Popular Front, the reconciliation of the workers with the “Marseillaise”, the tri-color and the army are quite edifying in this regard.
Finally, in Spain the USSR has provided, with its weapons and its gold, so much power to the PSUC that the latter has become capable of crushing the power of the revolutionary anarchist and POUMist workers and reestablishing the rule of the democratic bourgeoisie.
The communist organizations, under the control of the USSR, are working today for the preparation of another imperialist butchery and will be the agents of the bourgeoisie for the denunciation and repression of revolutionary defeatists.
To conclude, we must first of all forever banish the expressions of an obsolete opposition, such as those that would tend to suggest that Stalin commits errors, that he is a bad defender of the conquests of the October Revolution and that his faults derive from his theory of “socialism in one country”. No, Stalin is carrying out the policies of a new class based on the exploitation of the workers; all that is left of the October Revolution in Russia has been transformed into a counterrevolutionary instrument. Its monopoly of foreign trade, its economic plans and industrialization are not bringing the USSR closer to socialism, but to modern capitalism, to fascism. The proletariat holds no more power in the USSR than the Chamber of Deputies in France or the corporations in Italy. The USSR has its place in the world among the imperialist states and pursues bloody counterrevolution everywhere. To fight for the defense of the USSR is to take a stand against the emancipation of the Russian proletariat, as well as to endorse the sacred union in every country.
In this article we have tried to situate the discussion of the USSR on a new terrain, one that is as free as possible of the prejudices and sacred formulas that have stifled Marxist understanding and debate for decades.
We do not want to adopt the errors that the Bolsheviks were impelled to commit due to an unfavorable international situation as dogmas or as guides for a future revolutionary period.
The international proletariat, and especially on the Russian battlefield, has been defeated: the forms assumed by the Russian defeat are, with regard to foreign policy, the diplomatic capitulations executed amidst economic turmoil; domestically, the dictatorial bureaucratic structure of the state in the hands of a political faction. The fact that the Stalinist bourgeoisie developed on the basis of this retreat from, and reconciliation with, imperialism is a historical phenomenon as normal as the development of capitalism on the basis of industrial progress.
The fact that the dictatorial regime created by Lenin’s faction, in the face of the imperialist offensive, was a consequence of the immaturity of the situation, and finally a victory for imperialism, can be clearly affirmed today; why then be surprised at the fact that this regime of absolutism has constituted precisely the foundation of the power of the new bourgeoisie?
To summarize, the Russian experience, so rich in lessons, must above all lead us to destroy the weeds that have grown in an unfavorable foreign and domestic situation; it must also incite us to know in advance that proletarian power requires a more mature situation, in countries where economic development has attained the levels required for socialist organization. What was lacking in the USSR of 1917 will be created by counterrevolutionary Stalinism, which will play the role of fascism in Italy and of modern capitalism in general.
Workers of the USSR, the time for reformism has passed in the Soviet Union as well as in all the other countries; now is the time for new revolutionary struggles. The battles of October 1917, like the Paris Commune, and like the bloody revolutionary struggles that have taken place in so many countries over the last few decades, have not yet attained their goal, but have awakened millions and millions of the workers throughout the world to class consciousness and have shown them the irresistible power the proletariat is capable of exercising. Workers of the USSR! The struggle of 1917 has been aborted, but the time is ripe for your socialist revolution and the organization of proletarian revolutionary power. Against your exploiters, against the imperialist war to which the Stalinist bourgeoisie is dragging you, prepare the proletarian insurrection!
Note: L’Union Communiste was a revolutionary organization—one of the very few—that existed between 1933 and 1939. It emerged from a split in the Trotskyist League and over the years attracted other opponents of Trotskyism, councilists, former Bordiguists, etc., as it evolved towards the positions of the German-Dutch Left.
Its journal was L’Internationale, first a newspaper, then later a magazine, and during its most prosperous times it was issued as a monthly. The particularly numerous articles about the Popular Front, Russia and the war in Spain still exhibit an enduring interest due to their denunciation of such capitalist mystifications as frontism, state capitalism christened as “socialist”, antifascism, democracy, etc.
All the issues of L’Internationale may be consulted at the Bibliothèque Nationale. The journal Jeune Taupe published by the group, Pour une Intervention Communiste (47, rue St. Honoré, 75001, Paris) has published and will continue to publish articles taken from L’Internationale and pamphlets written by L’Union Communiste.
V. Foreign Policy or Workers Solidarity - Simon Rubak
The state is the structural form of the nation; it must have, both with regard to foreign relations and domestically, a pro-national policy. In foreign affairs, if it does not pursue a pro-national policy, it will end up being absorbed by or subjected to one state or another; it is also destined to disappear if, domestically, it breaks apart. Nations contain distinct social categories. Among them, that of the industrial capitalists and that of the workers each belong to a social class that spans the entire world but is divided by state borders. The states are therefore compelled, at the risk of disappearance, to appeal to patriotism, nationalism or chauvinism to bind together, within their borders, the disparate social categories and, in particular, the antagonistic national sections of the class of industrial capitalists and the working class.
But national borders are not naturally suitable for capitalism because it is an economic system that requires “free circulation of goods” and the universality of exchange: the capitalists abolished the borders, tolls, and monetary incongruities of feudalism in the era of their rise and, in this age of supersonic aircraft, they are even less capable of supporting the monetary incongruities, tolls and borders of the states. For example, they do not leave the real control of the international movement of private capital in the hands of the states.
State structures do not really constitute an absolute necessity for the capitalist economic system, within which, at opposite poles, the employing class and the workers are situated; however, to the greatest extent and wherever possible, the capitalists and, especially, the most powerful capitalist groups, use the authority of the state for their economic interests by applying pressure on the policies of the government personnel in the halls of power. The latter preserve, in the relations of one state with another, certain sovereign powers, for example, with regard to protocol, official visits, cultural exchanges, diplomacy, military pacts or threats, and the declaration of war or the cessation of hostilities. But in each country, the most powerful capitalist groups use their influence in such a way as to see to it that their economic interests, which are otherwise so divergent, should have the highest priority. In this way they make deals in favor of the foreign policies of their respective governments, but they also make deals, on an international scale, among themselves, under private auspices, without government mediation. The capitalists thus maintain the international relations of their own social class, and therefore also that class’s cohesion, even though this leads to broken alliances, diplomatic breaks or armed conflicts.
For their part, the workers, due to the fact that they belong to a ruled class, one that is economically and socially subordinated in an inferior condition, does not have the possibility of engaging in this kind of foreign policy: it is not, we may be sure, by means of its influence in official institutions like the International Labor Office or some sub-committee of the UN, or by any such intermediaries that the international cohesion of the working class is obtained! And this cohesion can only be obtained to a minimal extent in view of the borders, the distances, the linguistic obstacles, by relations between the workers or between their rank and file organizations, relations that are often prohibited and in that case, partake of a terribly dangerous illegality. When the workers successfully organize it is, in the best cases, on a national level and they therefore lack the means to intervene in the game of foreign policy, this policy being understood as the policy of their own country. This is true, above all, due to a lack of information. Diplomatic communications, however minimal their real importance—when they have any at all!—are secret or confidential; the public is only given vague and indeterminate information, but sensational news is broadcast when it is necessary to agitate public opinion for unstated purposes. In the foreign policy of the states, the workers have no role at all, not even a mass to be manipulated, or deceived, except in very exceptional circumstances, in critical historical situations; the rest of the time, they are neither consulted nor informed.
It must be admitted that if the information they are provided with was complete it would not be any more clear: in every one of the approximately one hundred twenty or one hundred thirty states on the planet, there is a ministry of Foreign Affairs where the politicians and officials are in constant or intermittent communication with their counterparts in every other state with regard to every kind of question, territorial, military, maritime, commercial, prestige…. And the political and administrative personnel of each state see their counterparts in the other states as rivals, enemies, allies, and engage in efforts to try to form or to destroy coalitions and carry out, domestically as well as on the foreign front, disparate, divergent, convergent or opposed pressure tactics.
In this completely tangled web, any “general line” that seems to emerge remains in the domain of the hypothesis, all prediction is hazardous, and those who are “in charge” consult fortune tellers, since those who professionally hold one end of a series of threads of intrigue never know for sure where those threads lead, nor do they know at what point or when they will break. When inextricable knots are found, the experts, not knowing how to untie them, exert pressure to transfer the responsibility for their results to public opinion’s simplistic reactions. These experts otherwise have a curiously allegorical and anthropomorphic view of states and international events, a view that can only be expressed in terms whose literal meaning is absurd. And they really begin to think that, as they say, “China” can “awake from its long sleep”, and that “Moscow” can “view a rapprochement between Washington and Peking with jaundiced eyes”, that, “for the Quai d’Orsay”, “France must have a presence in the Indian Ocean”, that “Germany has helped Italy to recover”, that “America is increasing its pressure on Latin America”, etc., etc. This language, which imposes a mythological mode of thought on anyone who is interested in international policy, is not entirely innocent: very often it leads to horrible mishaps, but above all it leads to the identification of territories and their inhabitants with the states and their leaders, and therefore leads to the implication that populations that are naturally or artificially grouped into nations are committed to the game and the machinations of their leaders—who are themselves manipulated by all kinds of “influences” and “pressures”. Each one of these populations is presented as a monolithic bloc, so that often it is not possible to distinguish within them the diversity of people and social categories, much less the antagonism within them of sections of the capitalist class and the working class. It is a fraud.
To take part, in one way or another, in foreign policy, is inevitably to blindly take a stance, without complete veracious information, for or against a state, or states or groups of states; it is, in the same frame of reference, to accept the integration, in the national amalgam, of all kinds of social categories and, among these categories, the antagonistic sections of the industrial capitalist class and the working class. When the workers accept this integration, this union of classes in the nation, they lose all at once any consciousness of their international nature that nonetheless constitutes, due to their numbers and their role in production, the power of the exploited workers. From that moment they are only one part of the manipulable masses for the “influenced” foreign policies of the states, policies of which they have made themselves the executors, fools and victims. And at the same time that they betray their class by abandoning internationalism, they pay for this treason with their blood, as on August 2, 1914.
It is hard to imagine, for the national sections of the working class, a “foreign policy” more imperative than the coordination of its struggles against the world capitalist class on an international scale. What victory can it possibly hope for, if, given the geographic distribution of the industries on the planet, the working class does not practice international solidarity by means of concerted, concrete and effective activities? Nationalism incorporates the workers into the foreign policy of the state; internationalism frees them of this state policy in the sense that they reject, that is, totally refuse to express any interest in this devious game, to play by its rules, to be its plaything and its wager.
Spontaneously, populations lose interest during times of peace in “foreign affairs”, a tangled web about which most people admit they understand nothing; in which respect they prove themselves to be at least as intelligent as those who claim to see through them; in any case, such a view is honest and healthy. Unfortunately, this completely passive indifference represents not so much a real rejection than a temporary renunciation: from the moment when a tense situation arises with respect to “the foreigner” and the state to which he belongs, people become concerned, and are therefore amenable to being invited to play the game and become its pawns. Those workers, on the other hand, who are conscious of their international dimension, cannot be, nor can they ever become, foreigners to each other. Indifference with regard to foreign policy then acquires the nature of a formal rejection, of a negation of nationalism by means of an affirmation of workers internationalism.
It is true that this indifference frees the hands of the governments that are necessarily very concerned with informing the population due to their fear that the latter might meddle in their affairs and interfere with their intrigues. But no one has ever been able to prevent them from engaging in their intrigues nor is it ever of any use to hinder them when it suffices to prevent their effects in order to render them useless. If, in foreign policy, the deals whose purposes are, most often, derisory, are once again bestowed a terrible importance, it is only because entire populations accept and execute decisions made by the politicians and officials of their respective states, in the wake of negotiations carried out strictly between those politicians and officials. Without the nationalist support of the people, the manipulations of foreign policy would be as futile as those of the strategists of the Café de Comercio.
The international political situation, at least if we consider it in the light of an apparently realistic description in the allegorical and anthropomorphic style of the specialists,—and here the iconoclast will present an image!—can be compared to a kind of chess game with one hundred thirty players who do not all have the same pieces, in which every piece that is lost leads to disaster, misery, and the suffering or deaths of a multitude of people. How can these people escape their fate? Certainly not by getting involved in the game, so that they help the players, but instead by knocking the board to the ground in order to prevent the playing of such a monstrous game. Do they not say, “only one solution, the revolution”? The only really effective foreign policy of the workers of every country that can lead to this solution is none other than the international coordination of their forces, in a spiritual condition of internationalist solidarity, in a class struggle that essentially progresses, whether you like it or not, on a world scale.
VI. “The Russian Tragedy: The Capitulation of Brest-Litovsk”
Since the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Russian Revolution has entered into a very difficult phase. The policy which has guided the Bolsheviks’ action is obvious: peace at any price in order to gain a respite, during which they can expand and consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, and realize as many socialist reforms as possible. They plan in this way to await the outbreak of the international proletariat revolution and at the same time to expedite it by the Russian example. Since the utter war-weariness of the Russian masses and the simultaneous military disorganization bequeathed by Tsarism appeared in any case to make the continuation of the war a futile shedding of Russian blood, there was no other way out but to conclude peace as quickly as possible. This is how Lenin and his comrades assessed the situation.
Their decision was dictated by two revolutionary viewpoints: by the unshakable faith in the European revolution of the proletariat as the sole way out and the inevitable consequence of the world war, and by their equally unshakable resolve to defend by any means possible the power they had gained in Russia, in order to use it for the most energetic and radical changes.
And yet these calculations largely overlooked the most crucial factor, namely German militarism, to which Russia surrendered unconditionally through the separate peace. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was in reality nothing but the capitulation of the revolutionary Russian proletariat to German militarism. Admittedly Lenin and his friends deluded neither themselves no other about the facts. They candidly admitted their capitulation. Unfortunately, they did deceive themselves in hoping to purchase a genuine respite at the price of this capitulation, to enable them to save themselves from the hellfire of the world war by means of a separate peace. They did no take into account the fact that the capitulation of Russia at Brest-Litovsk meant an enormous strengthening of the imperialist Pan-German policy and thus a lessening of the chances for a revolutionary rising in Germany. Nor did they see that this capitulation would bring about not the end of the war against Germany, but merely the beginning of a new chapter of this war.
In fact the ‘peace’ of Brest-Litovsk is an illusion. Not for a moment was there peace between Russia and Germany. War has continued since Brest-Litovsk up to the present time, but the war is a unique one, waged only by one side: systematic German advance and tacit Bolshevik retreat, step by step. Occupation of the Ukraine, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, the Crimea, the Caucasus, larger and larger tracts of the southern Russia – this is the result of the ‘state of peace’ since Brest-Litovsk.
And this has meant a number of things. In the first place, the strangulation of the revolution and the victory of the counter-revolution in the revolutionary strongholds of Russia. For Finland, the Baltic provinces, the Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Black Sea region – this is all Russia, namely the terrain of the Russian Revolution, no matter what the empty, petit-bourgeois phrase-mongers may babble about the ‘right of national self-determination’.
Secondly, this means the isolation of the Great Russian part of the revolutionary terrain from the grain-growing and coal-mining region and from the sources of iron-ore and naphtha, that is, from the most important and vital economic resources of the revolution.
Thirdly, the encouragement and strengthening of all counter-revolutionary elements within Russia, thus enabling them to offer the strongest resistance to the Bolsheviks and their measures.
Fourthly, Germany will play the role of arbiter in Russia’s political and economic relation with all of its own provinces: Finland, Lithuania, the Ukraine and the Caucasus, as well as with the neighbors, for example Rumania.
The overall result of this unrestricted and unlimited German power over Russia was naturally an enormous strengthening of German imperialism both internally and externally, and thereby of course a heightening of the white-hot resistance and war-readiness of the Entente powers, i.e. prolongation and intensification of the world war. And indeed there is more: Russia’s defencelessness, as revealed by the progressive German occupation, must naturally tempt the Entente and Japan to instigate a counter-action on Russian territory in order to combat Germany’s huge predominance and at the same time to satisfy their imperialist appetites at the expense of the defenceless colossus. Now the north and east of European Russia, as well as the whole of Siberia, are cut off, and the Bolsheviks are isolated form their last sources of essential supplies.
The end result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk is thus to encircle, starve out and strangle the Russian revolution from all sides.
But also within the country, in the terrain that the Germans did leave to the Bolsheviks, the power and the policies of the revolution were forced into difficult straits. The assassinations of Mirbach and Eichhorn are a tangible response to the reign of terror of German imperialism in Russia. Social Democracy, to be sure, has always rejected terror as an individual act, but only because it considered the mass struggle to be the more effective method, not because it preferred to tolerate passively reactionary despotism. It is of course only one of the W.T.B’s [Wolff’s Telegraphic Bureau’s] many falsifications that says the Left-wing Social Revolutionaries carried out these assassinations at the instigation or on the orders of the Entente. These assassinations were intended either as a signal for a mass uprising against German rule or they were only impulsive acts of revenge born of despair and hatred of the bloody German rule. However, whatever their intention, they gravely endangered the cause of the revolution in Russia by creating divisions within the hitherto ruling socialist groups. They drove a wedge between the Bolsheviks and the Left-wing Social Revolutionaries; indeed, they created an abyss and a mortal enmity between the two wings of the revolutionary army.
Admittedly the social differences – the antithesis between the property-owning peasantry and the peasant-proletariat and others – would sooner or later have created a split between the Bolsheviks and the Left-wing Social Revolutionaries. Until the Mirbach assassination, however, events did not appear to have progressed so far. In any case, it is a fact that the Left-wing Social Revolutionaries lent their support to the Bolsheviks. The October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to the helm, the breaking up of the Constituent Assembly, the Bolsheviks’ reform until now, would have hardly been possible without the co-operation of the Left-wing Social Revolutionaries. Only Brest-Litovsk and its after-effects drove the wedge between the two wings. Now German imperialism appears as the arbiter between the Bolsheviks an their revolutionary allies of yesterday, just as it is the arbiter of their (the Bolsheviks’) relations with the Russian border provinces and their neighbouring states. Because of this, the resistance to the Bolsheviks’ rule and reform measures, huge in any case, will increase. Because of this, it is clear that the basis upon which their rule rests has been significantly diminished. Probably this internal falling-out and division of the heterogeneous elements of the revolution was inevitable, just as it is inevitable in the progressive radicalization of every developing revolution. Now, however, a controversy over the brutal German military dictatorship as in fact entered into the Russian Revolution. German imperialism is the thorn in the flesh of the Russian Revolution.
Yet this is not the full extent of the danger! The iron circle of the world war, which seemed to have been broken in the east, is once again relentlessly encompassing the whole world: the Entente is advancing with Czech and Japanese troops from the north and east as a natural, inevitable consequence of Germany’s offensive from the west and south. The flames of the world war are leaping across Russian soil and at any moment may engulf the Russian Revolution. To withdraw from the world war – even at the price of the greatest sacrifices – is something which, at the final analysis, it is simply impossible for Russia to do.
And now the most terrible prospect looms ahead of the Bolsheviks, the final stage of their path and thorns – an alliance between the Bolsheviks and Germany! This, to be sure, would forge the final link in that disastrous chain which the world war has hung around the neck of the Russian Revolution: first retreat, then capitulation and finally an alliance with German imperialism. In this way the Russian Revolution would be dragged by the world war, from which it sought to withdraw at any price, over to the opposite camp – from the side of the Entente while under the Tsar to German side under the Bolsheviks.
It is to the everlasting credit of the Russian revolutionary proletariat that its first gesture following the outbreak of the revolution was a refusal to continue to fight as a levies of Franco-English imperialism. In view of the international situation, however, to render military service to German imperialism is even worse.
Trotsky is supposed to have said that if Russia had to choose between Japanese and German occupation, she would choose the latter, since Germany was far more ripe from revolution than Japan. The agonizing aspect of this speculation is obvious. For Japan is not Germany’s only opponent; so, too, are England and France, and of these no one is able to say whether or not their internal situations are more favourable than Germany’s to the proletarian revolution.
Trotsky’s reasoning is completely wrong, however, since the prospects and possibilities of a revolution in Germany are dimmed each time German militarism is strengthened or gains a victory.
But then other considerations, quite different from these apparently realistic ones, must be taken into account. An alliance between the Bolsheviks and German imperialism would be the most terrible moral blow that could be delivered against international socialism. Russia was the one last corner where revolutionary socialism, purity of principle an ideals, still held away. It was a place to which all sincere socialist elements in Germany and Europe could look in order to find relief from the disgust they felt at the practice of the West European labor movement, in order to arm themselves with the courage to persevere and in faith in pure actions and sacred words. The grotesque ‘coupling’ of Lenin and Hindenburg would extinguish the source of moral light in the east. It is obvious that the German rulers are holding a gun to the Soviet government’s head and are exploiting its desperate situation in order to force this monstrous alliance upon it. But we hope that Lenin and his friends do not surrender a any price and that they answer this unreasonable demand with a categorical: ‘This far but no further!’
A socialist revolution supported by German bayonets, the dictatorship of the proletariat under the patronage of German imperialism – this would be the most monstrous event that we could hope to witness. And what is more, it would be pure utopianism. Quite apart from the fact that the moral prestige of the Bolsheviks would be destroyed in the country, they would lose all freedom of movement and independence even in domestic policy, and within a very shirt time would disappear from the scene altogether. Any child can see that Germany is only waiting for an opportunity of combining with a Milyukov, a Hetman or God knows what other obscure gentleman and political dabblers, to put an end to the Bolshevik splendor. They await merely an opportunity for casting Lenin and comrades (as they cast the Ukrainians, the Lybinskys and the rest) in the role of Trojan horse, a role which, when played out, means suicide for the actors.
If this were to be happen, all the sacrifices until now, including the great sacrifice of Brest-Litovsk, would have been totally in vain, for the price of the sacrifice would ultimately be moral bankruptcy. Any political destruction of the Bolsheviks in a honest struggle against the overwhelming forces and hostile pressures of the historical situation would be preferable to the moral destruction.
The Bolsheviks have certainly made a number of mistakes in their policies and are perhaps still making them – but where is the revolution in which no mistakes have been made! The notion of a revolutionary policy without mistakes, and moreover, in a totally unprecedented situation, is so absurd that it is worthy only of a German schoolmaster. If the so-called leaders of German socialism lose their so-called heads in such an unusual situation as a vote in the Reichstag, and if their hearts sink into their boots and they forget all the socialism they ever learned in situation in which the simple abc of socialism clearly pointed the way – could one expect a party caught up in a truly thorny situation, in which it would show the world new wonders, not to make mistakes?
The awkward position that the Bolsheviks are in today, however, is, together with most of their mistakes, a consequence of basic insolubility of the problem posed to them by he international, above all the German, proletariat. To carry out the dictatorship of the proletariat and a socialist revolution in a single country surrounded by reactionary imperialist rule and in the fury of the bloodiest world war in human history – that is squaring the circle. Any socialist party would have to fail in this task and perish – whether or not it made self-renunciation the guiding star of its policies.
We would like to see the spineless jelly-fish, the moaners, the Axelrods, Dans, Grigoryans or whatever their names are, who, mouths frothing, sing their plaintive song against the Bolsheviks in foreign lands. And – just look! – they have found a sympathetic ear in such heroes as Ströbel, Bernstein and Kautsky; we would like to see these Germans in the Bolsheviks’ place! All their superior understanding would rapidly exhaust itself in an alliance with the Milyukovs in domestic policy and with the Entente in foreign policy; to this would be added a conscious renunciation of all socialist reforms, or even of any move in this direction, in domestic policy – all this due to the conscious eunuch wisdom that says Russia is an agricultural country and Russian capitalism is not adequately cooked.
Such is the false logic of the objective situation: any socialist party that came to power in Russia today must pursue the wrong tactics so long as it, as part of the international proletarian army, is left in the lurch by the main body of this army.
The blame of the Bolsheviks’ failures is borne in the final analysis by the international proletariat and above all by the unprecedented and persistent baseness of German Social Democracy. This party which in peace-time pretended to march at the head of the world proletariat, which presumed to advise and lead the whole world, which in its own country counted at least ten million supporters of both sexes – this is the party which has nailed socialism to the cross twenty-four hours a day for the four years at the bidding of the ruling class like venal mercenaries of the Middle Ages.
The news now arriving from Russia about the situation of the Bolsheviks is a moving appeal to what vestiges of honour remain in the masses of German workers and soldiers. They have cold-bloodedly left the Russian Revolution to be torn to pieces, encircled and starve out. Let them now intervene, even at the eleventh hour, to save the revolution from the most terrible fate: from moral suicide, from an alliance with German imperialism.
There is only one solution to the tragedy in which Russia in caught up: an uprising at the rear of German imperialism, the German mass rising, which can signal the international revolution to put an end to this genocide. At this fateful moment, preserving the honour of the Russian Revolution is identical with vindicating that of the German proletariat and of international socialists.
(Rosa Luxemburg, Spartacus, No. 11, September 1918; online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/09/11.htm)
- 1Eberlein had been issued an imperative mandate to vote against an immediate founding of the Third International by the Central Committee of the German Communist Party, and according to Ernst Meyr, he was even under an obligation to leave the conference should the objections of the KPD be rejected. It must be recalled that Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogisches, based on their Polish experiences, had no faith in the hegemonic pretensions of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Rosa Luxemburg was also perfectly aware, in the wake of the isolation of the Russian revolution after Brest-Litovsk, of the deformations suffered by the Soviet power and was apprehensive, as long as the international movement had not led to the victory of the proletariat in other countries, or at least to the formation of real communist organizations in other countries, concerning the possibility that the new International would become a feudal preserve of the Bolsheviks and would be transformed into a simple instrument for the defense of the Russian State. Eberlein, whose speech as set forth above falls far short of expressing the whole content of Rosa Luxemburg’s analysis and fears, reneged on his mandate and contented himself with abstaining from the vote on the foundation of the Third International.
- 2A conference convoked by groups such as the British Labor Party and the German Independent Social Democrats (USPD), which had taken place in Berne in December 1918, whose purpose was to resuscitate the Second International.
- 3Jean Longuet, the nephew of Karl Marx, and a member of the French Socialist Party, approved of the attempts to reestablish the Second International. Viewed by the Bolsheviks as the very model of a yellow social democrat, his exclusion would be the object of a special request made by Zinoview by telegram to the 1920 Tours Congress of the French Socialist Party. With the founding of the French Communist Party that resulted from that Congress, Longuet would join Blum and the minority fraction.
- 4Christian Rakovski was considered to represent the Balkan social democratic federation that was proclaimed in 1915, but this federation barely had any real existence in March 1919. In fact, his activity in Russia after May 1917 led to his becoming a high level member of the Bolshevik Party and his proposal in favor of the immediate foundation of the Third International at the third session of the Congress played a decisive role in overcoming the hesitations aroused by Eberlein’s dissenting position.
- 5It would have been interesting to publish a more extensive excerpt from Osinski’s article, or even the entire article. But since our translation is based on a Spanish translation, which was in turn translated from the German (See Democracia de Trabajadores or Dictadura de Partido, Zero, pp. 81-83), we have preferred instead to limit the risks of misinterpreting the ideas expressed in this article.
Furthermore, in the continuation of the passage quoted above, Osinski engages in a polemic with Lenin that is based essentially on the point of view of the Russian economy. And the critiques he articulates do not make the direct connection, as does the passage quoted above, between the roots of Lenin’s policies and the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Even though many of his points are correct, they lead to proposals that express all of the illusions of the left communists concerning integral nationalization and workers control from below that we have already discussed above.