Social Democracy vs. Communism

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Social Democracy vs. Communism


Kautsky, Karl


Rand School Press


Shaplen, Joseph
Shub, David


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Vienna, Austria

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Social Democracy versus Communism
1. The Origin of Socialism
What is it that divides the Social Democrats from the Communists? Like the Socialists, they are a working class party. The emancipation of the workers is their common aim.
There was a time when both had a common theoretical basis. But later a gulf developed between them, which cannot be bridged, however much we may desire and consider this necessary. This gulf arises neither from a misunderstanding nor from a mere difference of opinion.
To realize how absolutely irreconcilable are Communism and Socialism, we must first look into the history of the origin of Socialism. It springs from two roots, one ethical and the other economic. The first emanates from the natural instinct of man, the second from the nature of capitalist society and the position of the workers as a class.
The demand "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" advanced by the men of the French Revolution antedates all written history. It reflects the desire of all oppressed, exploited and their friends ever since there have been oppression and exploitation. But this demand merely poses a problem. It does not indicate the road to its solution. What this road should be has been variously conceived, depending upon varied social conditions and the classes who have sought to find it. Only under the capitalist mode of production has the solution of this problem, through the establishment of a democratic social economy of the workers, become possible and necessary. Only through economic research, not through ethical indignation, can this solution be achieved. Certainly it can never be achieved by mere impassioned desire for what, since 1789, has been termed "liberty, equality, fraternity."
All socialist thinkers were rebels against any kind of enslavement and exploitation. But they were also research workers in the domain of economics.
The revolt-provoking study of the mass impoverishment generated by capitalist industry gave birth to socialist ideas. It was precisely this impoverishment, however, which by its very frightfulness so held the workers down, that they were frequently rendered incapable of resistance. Whenever some few did revolt, they knew nothing better to do than to destroy machines and burn factories. By such outbursts of indignation they succeeded only in multiplying their own misery.
The early socialists, therefore believed that the working class could not emancipate itself by its own efforts. It was to be emancipated through the efforts of humanitarians, superior to the workers. It soon became clear, however, that little was to be expected from the statesmen and millionaires of the bourgeois world. Side by side with the utopians who relied upon the well meaning bourgeoisie were socialists who perceived that the power necessary for the realization of socialism could come only from the working class itself. But they, too, despaired of the masses. They addressed themselves to the small group of the elite among the working class, those enjoying more favorable conditions than the average worker. Together with professional revolutionists they were to enter into a conspiracy to capture political power, and bring about socialism by means of armed revolt. Finally, there were socialists who, permitting themselves to be deceived by the prospects aroused by the early labor movements, overestimated the numbers and intellectual power of the workers of their period and believed that the working class needed only to bring about democracy, namely, the universal franchise, in order to win immediately the power of government and transform society in line with their desires.
All these schools, however they appeared to differ from each other, had this common characteristic: they looked upon the working class as they FOUND it, and sought a means for the immediate "solution of the social question," i.e. for the immediate abolition of the misery and enslavement of the working class. Every one of these schools criticized severely the other socialists, each perceiving clearly the illusions of the others. Each was right and all succumbed to the criticism of time, which wrecked every one of them.
Then came Marx and Engels who introduced the idea of DEVELOPMENT into socialist thought, and perceived the working class not only as it was but also as it was BECOMING. In their "Communist Manifesto" they realized that the working class had not yet advanced far enough to achieve immediately its own emancipation and, further, that this could not be achieved through the universal franchise, the efforts of the well-meaning portion of the bourgeoisie, or by the armed action of an advanced guard of energetic conspirators. At the same time they also perceived that through the development of industry the working class would grow in numbers and organization, while gaining constantly in intellectual and moral power. In this way labor would achieve the power to emancipate itself. To be sure it would have to be educated to this. But this education, as Marx and Engels realized, could not be brought about by men who proclaimed themselves .the schoolmasters of the workers, but through the experience of the class struggle, forced upon the wage earners, by the conditions under which, they lived.
The-more the class struggle proceeds in a democratic environment, all other things being equal, i.e. in an environment of universal education, freedom of press and organization and of universal suffrage, the greater its educational influence. Long before the instruments of democracy become the means for acquisition of power by the workers, they constituted the means of its education in the task not only of how to attain power but also of how to keep it and apply it successfully in the building of a higher social order.
As Marx and Engels saw it, the task for Socialists was not to bring about the immediate solution of "the social question" and the realization of socialism, but, first, to support the workers in the class struggle, to help it understand the nature of capitalist society, its power relationships and processes of production, and promote the organization of Labor.
Proceeding from this point of view, Marx and Engels sought to bring about the union of all elements participating in the class struggle for the liberation of the working .class into a strong mass party. Before their arrival upon the scene, each of the various socialist leaders and thinkers had put forward their own distinct method for the solution of the social question and opposed all other socialists who would follow other methods. So it had come about that socialism had served only to divide the working class. Marx and Engels tried to unite it, not to add a Marxian sect to those already in the field.
We find emphasis of this already in the "Communist Manifesto" (1847). Speaking to their adherents, who called themselves communists, Marx and Engels said:
"The communists do not constitute a separate party, distinct from other working class parties."
They demanded only that their adherents within the working class parties strive to develop "in advance of the rest of the masses of the proletariat an understanding of the. conditions, the process and the general consequences of the movement of the proletariat."
Their actions were in line with this idea, as for example in the First International, which had very few Marxists but plenty of Proudhonists and, later, also Blanquists as well as British trade unionists, who knew little of socialism.
Marx and Engels understood well how to bring about a firm union between the world of socialist ideas and the labor movement. All truly working class parties of our time, which have arisen since the final quarter of the last century to take the place of preceding seas, rest upon this union. As working class parties they fight for the interests of the working class; as Socialist parties they wage the class struggle as a means of emancipation of all the oppressed and exploited, not of the wage earners alone.
The Socialist parties fight not only for shorter working hours and higher wages, unemployment insurance and shop councils, but also for the liberty, equality, fraternity of all human beings, regardless of race, color or creed.
Such Socialist parties are bringing about the realization of Marxist ideas even when they themselves are not conscious of them. Every place where the capitalist mode of production exists, with few exceptions, they have been irresistibly on the march since the end of the last century.
2. Marxism and the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat"
There was nothing that Marx feared so much as the degeneration of his school into a rigid sect The same fear was entertained by Engels, whose scientific work is indissolubly linked with that of his friend Marx, so that we always keep in mind both Marx and Engels whenever we speak of the Marxist theory.
The worst reproach that Engels could make against the first English Marxists was that they were applying Marxism in a sectarian spirit What would he have said, had he lived to see it about a school of Marxists, who, having captured the state power proceeded to make a state religion, of Marxism, a religion whose articles of faith and their interpretation are watched over by the government, a religion, the criticism of which, nay the slightest deviation from which is sternly punished by the State; a Marxism ruling by the methods of the Spanish Inquisition, propagated by fire and sword, practicing a theatrical ritual (as illustrated by the embalmed body of Lenin); a Marxism reduced to the status not only of a state religion but of a medieval or oriental faith? Such a Marxism may indeed be called doctrinaire fanaticism.
To Marx there was no ultimate knowledge, only an infinite process of learning. Therefore, his own theory is not to be conceive as a collection of tenets which we must accept on faith. Marxism itself is nothing but a definite process of learning; founded upon a definite method introduced by Marx and Engels. This method itself, which Marx and Engels called the materialist conception of history, is not unalterable. It is constantly being improved, like a machine, through continued gain in experience accumulated in its application. The principles underlying a given method of intellectual activity often do not change as rapidly as do the results of that activity. The views of people under the influence of constantly changing experiences tend to change more easily than do the methods and forms of thought by which they are attained. Both however, are regarded as in constant process of development. Even the materialistic conception of history did not, like Athena, spring fully armed from the head of its procreator; as a matter of fact it had two such procreators. These two were constantly developing it throughout their lives and to the Marxists bequeathed the task of continuing the process.
To know and understand the line of this development is of the highest importance to every Marxist as well as to any one who wishes to make a critical study of Marx, prompted by a sincere desire for knowledge, and not by the motives of the trickster lawyer who seeks to obtain a conviction of his opponent's client at any cost.
Every form of doctrinaire fanaticism, every attempt to turn Marxism into an unalterable dogma is contrary to Marxist thought, which recognizes no absolute truth but only relative truth. This is not scepticism, which denies the very possibility of absolute perception of the world, but only a recognition of the limitations of our perception. All the truths which we recognize are not truths in themselves, independent of time and places but truths only as far as we are concerned, valid only for us, for our time, for the space in which we live. Every such truth must govern our actions until more advanced perception has exposed and removed the bit of error residing in the previously accepted truth.
Quite early in his career Marx realized, and in this he proved superior to other Socialists of his day, that the liberation of the working class could be achieved only by the working class itself, that no paternalistic friend from the bourgeoisie, no select proletarian vanguard could accomplish this task for the masses. But like other Socialists he had to admit that the masses were not yet ripe for the struggle. How was this ripeness to be achieved? Through well meaning tutors from above? Grown-up people will not submit to the guardianship of tutors. Where this attempt is made either by Christians or by atheists, it usually degenerates into a loathsome, priestly presumptuousness on the part of the tutor and a hypocritical submission of the tutored.
Grown-ups can be taught by life alone. Marx expected the education of the working class to come from life, that is to say, he expected it to come from capitalist development and its effect upon the workers. Marx pointed this out already in the "Communist Manifesto". Industry draws the workers together in large numbers and thereby increases their class consciousness. At the same time that conflicts with the employers grow, trade unions develop. The extension of the conflicts to all industry transforms the occasional local clashes into a class struggle. This class struggle becomes political, finding expression in political changes. But the working class was not strong enough to overcome the forces tending toward the pauperization of the masses, which was the predominant feature of capitalism everywhere. The "Communist Manifesto" had yet to prove the absolute impoverishment of the industrial proletariat.
"The modern worker, instead of improving his condition with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper under the circumstances affecting his own class. The worker becomes a pauper and pauperism develops even faster than population and wealth."
Under such conditions, whence could come that moral and intellectual advancement which alone could make possible the self-liberation of the working class?
Marx expected it to come as a result of revolution, the advent of which he correctly foresaw. He had studied the French Revolution. It bore at the beginning a purely bourgeois character but grew more and more radical and finally led to the rule, only for a short time, to be sure, of the working class. The revolution developed enormously not only the political courage but also the political understanding of the masses of the people, until then inert and ignorant. Opposed as Marx already was at the time of the "Communist Manifesto" to the policy of plots and coups des mains preached by the Blanquists, he was still strongly influenced by their Jacobin traditions. In the first months of 1850, in his articles on "The Class Struggles in France", published in 1895 by Engels in pamphlet form, he regarded the Blanquists as properly the workers' party of France. They, above all others, held his sympathies.
In 1847 Marx assumed that the forthcoming revolution would run the same course as did the Great Revolution but with a working class "much further advanced" by the growth of large industries. The revolution was to last long enough to lift the working class quickly to the necessary mental level. Hence "the German bourgeois revolution could serve only as a direct prelude to a proletarian revolution."
This expectation was not realized. The force of the German revolution of 1848 spent itself within a few months and the working class as an independent factor played no part in it. What happened then was the same thing that was to happen to Marx often enough later. He correctly foresaw the direction in which events were moving but h misjudged the rate at which they were moving.
Yet none learned so readily from experience as did Marx, even when the experience ran counter to his innermost wishes. Already in September 1850 he came out against the view that "we must strive to gain power immediately" and declared that the workers might have to go through "15, 20, 30 years of civil strife and foreign wars in order to change not only conditions but to change yourselves, to qualify yourselves for rulership."
This sounded quite different from the expectation that the coming bourgeois revolution would be the "direct prelude to a proletarian revolution." Yet, even this new, more prudent hope proved too sanguine. Since it was first uttered not only 15, 20, 30 years but 80 years have passed. To be sure, these have not been years of stagnation, The strides made by the working class toward the achievement of political independence and skill during the intervening period have been enormous.
Though Marx in 1850 rose superior to the majority of his communist comrades who at the time were still dreaming of the immediate seizure of political power by the proletariat, he had not yet fully rid himself of his old Jacobin-Blanquist traditions. In armed struggle, in "civil strife and foreign wars" he still saw the means of lifting the proletariat to a higher level. He had not yet realized that every bloody struggle, including a popular war, inspiring and uplifting as it may appear at the beginning, in the long run demoralizes its participants, and, far from increasing, actually reduces their capacity for constructive effort in the field of production as well as in political life.
During the decade following 1850, Marx had opportunity to study the laws underlying commodity production in England, namely its capitalist form, and expounded them more clearly than had been done by any student before him. But he also perceived the opportunity for effective action by the English working class under the democratic political institutions prevailing in England. He saw that under such freedom it was possible for the proletariat to overcome the tendency under capitalism to absolute impoverishment of the workers. In his Inaugural Address (1864) as well as in "Capital" (1867) he welcomed the salutary results of the ten-hour work-day, as an improvement over the longer hours prevailing in English factories and plants. Of course, this did not blind him to the fact that the propertied classes in England were able to show an amazing gam in wealth and power, while at the same time the absolute pauperization of those proletarian groups which were not protected either by state laws or by strong trade unions advanced still further, and that among those protected by the law the improvement in conditions lagged behind the increase in the wealth of capital, so that their position became relatively if not absolutely worse.
Nevertheless, the proof was furnished that under conditions of adequate freedom the workers could by their own efforts lift themselves to a high enough level to be able finally to achieve political power not through "civil strife and foreign wars" but through the class struggle waged by their political and economic mass organizations. The condition prerequisite for such a struggle is an adequate measure of political freedom. Where this is lacking, where it has yet to be won, "civil strife and foreign wars" may be necessary to achieve democracy as essential to the rise of the working class. Where democracy exists, ` it is not necessary for the working class to resort to armed, force as a means of attaining power.
Here is what Marx said in 1872 at a public meeting in Amsterdam following the Congress of the International at the Hague (as reported by the "Leipziger Volkstaat" of October 2,1872)
"The worker must some day achieve political power, in order to found the new organization of labor; he must overthrow the old political machine upon which the old institutions are based, if, like the old Christians, who neglected and despised such matters, he does not wish to renounce the kingdom of this world.
"But we do not maintain that the means of attaining this objective are everywhere the same.
"We know that we must take into consideration the institutions, the habits and the customs of different regions, arid we do not deny that there are countries like America, England and — if I knew your institutions better I would perhaps add Holland — where the workers can attain their objective by peaceful means. But such is not the case in all other countries."
By "other countries" Marx evidently meant first of all, the great centralized police and military states of continental Europe as they existed at that time. On April 12, 1871, in a letter to Kugelman at the time of the Paris Commune, Marx pointed out that the objective in next attempt of revolution in France would be "no longer as heretofore to effect a change of hands of the bureaucratic military apparatus, but to demolish it, and that is the prerequisite for every true popular revolution on the continent."
It was not granted to Marx to witness a third phase of the labor movement, besides the two indicated by him, and which was already shaping itself about the time of his death. The "civil strife and foreign wars" of 1789-1871 were not sufficient to destroy the bureaucratic-military apparatus of the continental powers, but their effects were nevertheless strong enough to wrest from these powers a certain measure of freedom for the toiling masses, which enabled them to acquire not only great political skill but also to build strong trade unions and proletarian parties. Unfortunately, this new phase was characterized by great obstacles at the beginning. In prance the revolution of September 4, 1870, was followed by the bloody suppression of the Commune in May 1871, and thereafter by a period of dark reaction and oppression of the proletariat which lasted almost until Marx's death. In Austria after 1866 came an era of liberalism which, however, did not last long. Nor did the liberal era that set in in Germany after 1866 prove of long duration. It ended with the anti-Socialist law of Bismarck.
Marx thus had little opportunity to observe the effects of democracy on the development of labor in the military bureaucratic countries of continental Europe.
Engels survived his great friend. He lived to witness the abolition of the Exception Laws in Austria, the rescinding of the Anti-Socialist Law in Germany, the beginning of the rapid growth of the labor movement all over Europe. He was thus in a position to sum up the results of this particular phase of development for Marxism. He did this in his famous introduction to Marx's "Class Struggles in France".
Marx had never believed in the possibility of bringing about a revolution at will. Therein he differed already in his early works from the Blanquists. But as long as there was no political freedom for the proletariat, he was compelled to wish ardently for the speediest possible coming of the revolution, first as a democratic bourgeois revolution, which would bring the necessary political freedom. During the fifties and sixties he eagerly looked for signs of the coming revolution arising either from war or civil conflicts.
But now the situation was quite different. Engels, too, saw the coming of the revolution, but he hoped it might be postponed. And he feared new wars. They might bring on the revolution but they threatened to ruin the working class, the only revolutionary class that still existed. They might destroy the revolution and impair the ability of the working class to utilize it, for what was expected from the revolution was that it would bring not merely political freedom, but power itself.
The expression "dictatorship of the proletariat" has been widely used in the past by many who are obviously confused as to its meaning. Most people assume that it connotes a political aim the meaning of which is self-evident and requires no explanation. Unfortunately this is not so.
The expression comes from Marx. In 1875, in his "Critique of the Gotha Program", he wrote:
"Between the capitalist and Communist society lies the period of change of one into the other. This corresponds to a political transition period in which the state can be nothing else than a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."
Unfortunately, Marx failed to elucidate the momentous expression. He used it in a private letter to the executive committee of the Eisenach party, assuming the committee would understand what the dictatorship of the proletariat was without further comment. That this expression in no way signified either repudiation of democracy for absolute power in the state is quite clear from the one fact alone that in the very same letter Marx characterized the democratic republic as the form of government in which "the class struggle is to be fought out," saying:
"Freedom consists in the transformation of the state from an organ dominant over society into an organ subordinate to society. And today, too, the various existing forms of state are free or not free in the measure in which they circumscribe the freedom of the state."
Engels, at a later date, spoke in like manner. In 1891, the executive committee of the German Social Democratic Party, having formulated the draft of a new program, submitted it to him for his opinion. Engels expressed his criticism in a long monograph (published in the "Neue Zeit", Vol.XX). Among other things he wrote:
"If anything is certain it is that our party and the working class can triumph only under the form of the democratic republic. This is precisely the specific form of the dictatorship of the proletariat."
And, indeed it was the democratic parliamentary republic that Engels had in mind, for he added that under all circumstances the program must include "the demand for the concentration of all political power in the hands of a representative assembly of the people." (Underscored by Engels himself.)
Even Rosa Luxemburg, who was close to the Bolsheviks and fought so insistently for the dictatorship of the proletariat, held to the end of her days to the conviction that such a dictatorship must be founded upon a democracy. In "The Russian Revolution" she wrote:
"To be sure, every democratic institution has its 'faults and limitations, which it has in common with all human institutions. But the remedy discovered by Lenin and Trotsky, the abolition of democracy, is worse than the evil it is supposed to cure, for it shuts off the lifespring from which can come the cure for all the inadequacies of social institutions."
The idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat proclaimed by Marx and Engels does not therefore constitute in any way a repudiation of the idea of democracy. On the contrary, it goes hand in hand with the demand for the abolition of the bureaucratic-military state apparatus and not the strengthening of its absolute power.
In 1891 Engels concluded his preface to the new edition of Marx's Civil War in France with the following words.
"The German philistines have of late again fallen into wholesome fear of the expression 'dictatorship of the proletariat.' Very well, gentlemen, do you wish to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat."
But Marx characterized the Paris Commune of 1871 as an attempt "no longer, as heretofore, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to destroy it, and this was the prerequisite for every true revolution of the people on the comment." (Letter to Kugelman. )
The destruction of this type of state machine was, in truth, the only thing the Paris Commune undertook to achieve. It did not live long enough to embark upon any Socialist measures.
The maintenance of a strong bureaucratic-military state machine constitutes, however, the prerequisite of any dictatorship as a political order. Its destruction signifies complete anarchy or complete democracy, but never dictatorship. For Marx and Engels the all important aim in the destruction of the centralized state apparatus was solely the establishment of democracy.
Marx and Engels never explained why they characterized this condition as a "dictatorship," although it was to spring from democracy. I assume they used the expression to denote a strong government.
Karl Marx was not the only one to speak of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This idea is much older than Marxism. It represents the oldest, most primitive form of a revolutionary Socialism which sought to emancipate the working people from exploitation and slavery not through peaceful socialistic settlements, colonies or mutual aid associations (another form of primitive Socialism) but by means of forcible seizure of power. This idea is related to the Jacobin reign of terror in the French Revolution.
It was François ("Gracchus") Babeuf who after the overthrow of Robespierre sought to rally the remnants of the Montagards to combat the rising capitalist regime and to supplant it with a socialism of "crude levelling" (Marx). He organized "The Conspiracy of the Equals," which set before itself the task of overthrowing the capitalist government by means of an uprising of the propertyless and putting a Communist regime in its place. Such a regime was to bring about complete democracy, but not immediately. Experience had shown that the workers permitted themselves to be led by the nose by men of property and education.
The conspirators feared that through democracy the poor, ignorant people would once more fall victim to these influences. For this reason a dictatorship was to be established by means of a popular revolution. Freedom of the press was to be abolished, and no publications were to be tolerated "which contradicted the sacred principles of equality and the sovereignty of the people," the steering committee, of course, being empowered to determine what was in contradiction with these principles. There were to be popular elections, but only after equality had been thoroughly established.
This was intended to be a dictatorship for "the transition period between the capitalist and Communist society." It was to be a proletarian dictatorship, but not the dictatorship of the proletariat, since the proletariat was as yet too ignorant and unable to defend its own interests. It was to be a dictatorship of "little fathers" and spokesmen of the proletariat. The recently coined expression "an educational dictatorship" (ERZIEHUNGSDIKATUR) characterizes well this form of government.
The dictatorship of Babeuf was not designed to be a political state emanating from democracy, the offspring of an adequate high level of working class development, but a form of government which, in view of the backwardness of the proletariat, would seek at all costs to defend the interests of the workers, ruthlessly and in the most extreme manner possible. It emanated from the conviction that democracy as a means of emancipation of the workers must fail because the proletariat itself had failed, because it was incapable of emancipating itself.
The "Conspiracy of Equals" was uncovered and Babeuf was executed (1797). But his conception of the dictatorship of spokesmen of the proletariat as the sole instrument for the realization of Socialism did not die with him. It was the product of certain specific conditions. Capitalist production left the masses of the working people no escape from their misery other than a transition to a Socialist mode of production. Only the power of the state could cope with capital. But under the rule of capital the proletariat found itself immersed in such misery that it lacked the capacity to achieve and to hold political power.
Wherever such conditions have existed and an opportunity arose, or appeared to exist, for the overthrow of the prevailing regime by insurrection, the idea of such a dictatorship made itself manifest, taking its root from the backwardness and helplessness of the working masses, not from any high degree of the proletariat's intellectual and moral power and independence.
When the labor movement began to develop in France after the revolution of July 1830, the workers turned to the same problem of how to put an immediate end to their misery. Most of them agreed that they had nothing to expect from the bourgeoisie. They wanted to bring about Socialism immediately, by means of their own efforts.
The July revolution stimulated in the workers of Paris the belief in the power of the barricade. This led to a revival of Babeuf's idea in Blanquism.
But not all Socialists were Blanquistically inclined. Some affiliated themselves with Louis Blanc, who believed fervently in the democratic republic. Were not the poor and disinherited a great majority of the nation? All that was necessary was to provide them with universal, free and equal suffrage, a sovereign parliament and complete freedom of press and organization, and no power in the state could stem their march to Socialism. Louis Blanc failed to perceive, however, that this achievement required a highly developed proletariat, for the development of which there had been little impetus before 1848.
Proudhon was opposed to both these tendencies. He perceived that under the then existing conditions the proletariat could not achieve victory through democracy, but he feared no less the dictatorship of a Socialist minority ruling through an all-powerful state apparatus. He, too, considered the proletariat as he found it, rather than as it might become. He regarded it as incapable of influencing the policy of the state and to master it, and yet he felt that the emancipation of the workers could be accomplished only by the workers themselves. To make this possible he sought to simplify the problem. The workers, he argued, could not pursue an independent state policy of their own; on the other hand, they could master the problem of the individual communities. He thus sought to arrive at Socialism by dissolution of the state into a network of sovereign communities.
These in brief, were the various tendencies dominant among Socialists when Marx began to think as a Socialist. He had never been in doubt as to the hopelessness of bourgeois-philanthropic utopianism. The only Socialism he took seriously was the Socialism emanating from the. labor movement. Very soon, however, he saw also the inadequacy of the three tendencies outlined above. He perceived this inadequacy in the fact that the adherents of each of these tendencies sought to bring about Socialism with the proletariat as they found it a task that was obviously unrealizable.
The utopians and Blanquists likewise realized the inability of the proletariat to bring about Socialism. They saw the need of educating the proletariat to this task, but this education was to be undertaken by leaders superior to and standing above the proletariat. Only with the realization of Socialism would it became possible for the working people to rise to a higher level of development, and thus learn how to govern themselves democratically. The expression "true democracy is possible only under complete Socialism" is not a new revelation but primitive pre-Marxian conception.
Marx discerned the weakness of this form of education of the proletariat by educators self-appointed to the role of Fuehrers, or lifted to dominance and absolute power over itself by an ignorant proletariat through insurrection or in some other way. This would mean making the emancipation of the workers dependent upon historical accidents, quite improbable accidents. For, as a general rule, it was not to be expected that a few Socialist conspirators, supported by a weak, ignorant proletariat, could attain that absolute power necessary for the expropriation of capital, to say nothing of coping with the difficulties of Socialist construction.
Marx perceived that the education required by the proletariat could be made secure not through abnormal circumstances but only as it developed from a phenomenon characteristic of all capitalist states, a phenomenon inexorable in its force and powerful in its effects. This phenomenon was the class contradiction between capital and labor, the class struggle arising inevitably from this contradiction. This class struggle was an incontrovertible fact, regardless of its characterization by liberals and fascists as a Marxian "invention. "
Marx did not invent it. He did not demand it. He merely registered its existence and pointed out its inherent, inescapable consequences. And, as one of those consequences he emphasized the education of the proletariat to democracy and Socialism, which cannot prosper without democracy.
Marx in 1872 divided the countries of Europe into two groups. In one — essentially Anglo-Saxon — it seemed possible that the working class would attain power without violence. In the other group Marx included most of the countries of the continent where the attainment of power without a revolution appeared impossible.
After the rescinding of the Anti-Socialist Law in Germany there came into view a third sub-division. As heretofore it still appeared impossible for the proletariat in the military countries of the continent to come into power without a revolution. But in most of these countries it was now highly desirable to postpone the decisive clash with the state as long as possible. In Russia, on the other hand, it was most imperative that the uprising of the people against the absolutist regime should take place as soon as possible.
We find, therefore, in the Second International, founded in 1889, whose period covered this new phase of development, three well defined currents. They are geographically distinct and spring from the different types of government prevailing on the continent. Each of them represents an adaptation to conditions, and from a Marxist point of view each was fully justified. Each of them could and did exist alongside the others, but not without some friction.
The human mind craves absolute solutions. It is against its nature to contend with relativities. And so, in each of the three above-mentioned divisions, there were many Socialists who regarded the particular stand on the question of revolution which was suited to their own countries as something that had an absolute validity, independent of space and time. This was enhanced by the brisk international intercourse which made it possible for ideas to circulate even faster than commodities. Born of the three views representing the different sub-divisions, all of which were reconcilable with Marxism, came three factions which opposed one another not only within the International but in some of the separate countries as well.
Nevertheless, from year to year the Socialist parties grew in size, in unity and in intellectual power.
3. The Beginning of Bolshevism
Russia, too, could not remain closed to the rise of Marxism and of a Socialist working class party founded upon its ideas. These met with even greater obstacles from the czarist regime than did the earlier socialist parties of non-Marxian character. Another obstacle to Marxian ideas in Russia was her economic backwardness, which delayed considerably the development of large, capitalist, mass industry and with it the growth of an industrial proletariat in the large cities. No less a barrier to the development of a park of working class struggle was the absence of democracy, which made impossible the development of any party activity, any legal mass-organization and a free press.
Added to this was the fact that due to her backwardness Russia retained until about the end of the last century more pronounced traces of a primitive village communism than were to be found anywhere in Europe. Due to these factors, socialist ideas in Russia continued to bear pre-Marxian characteristics for a longer period than in the West. The Russian fighters for liberty and equality inherited socialist tendencies from Western Europe. It was natural for them to see the power for a socialist regeneration of czarist Russia not in the numerically weak city workers but in the great masses of the peasantry. Moreover, the city workers themselves came largely from the village, the bulk of them remaining peasant in their thinking and feeling.
The working masses in the cities and the champions of their interests among the intellectuals, namely the students, were influenced much more by the ideas of a peasant socialism than by Marxism. The development of Marxism in Russia came later than in Western Europe, and the growth of its influence upon the Russian city workers was slow and difficult.
Not until 1898 did the groups who embraced Marxian ideas become sufficiently numerous to venture upon the establishment of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.
This was a thoroughly Marxian party and brought forth leaders and thinkers who have enriched mightily Marxian thought not only in Russia but throughout the world.
Nevertheless, the peculiar conditions prevailing in Russia remained unfavorable for the development of a consistent Marxism. In Germany, too, it made itself felt effectively only with the rise of her heavy industry and after her political constitution had provided ample opportunity for the creation of free working class organizations, a socialist mass literature, as well as the participation of the masses in strikes and electoral battles. In Russia, even after the establishment of the Social Democratic Labor Party, the industrial workers remained relatively small in numbers, while retaining their peasant viewpoint, without any working class consciousness of their own. Added to this was the fact that only a secret press and secret organizations were possible, which, naturally, could not be developed beyond painfully restricted proportions.
The conditions unfavorable to the development of Marxian socialism remained. Even many of those who considered themselves Marxists fell victim to these conditions. They interpreted Marxism frequently in a rather fanatical sense. And involuntarily they injected into it in increasing measure ideas of a pre-Marxian, Blanquist or Bakuninist coloration.
Outstanding among the Marxists of this character was Vladimir Ulianov, better known as Lenin. He joined the Social Democratic Labor Party at its inception. He accepted its program, having helped formulate it. What first brought him into conflict with the consistent Marxists in the party was the question of party organization. Under the conditions prevailing in czarist Russia this organization was of necessity a secret one. Nevertheless, the intention was to give it a form conducive to the highest possible development of the intellectual and spiritual powers of its members and the promotion of independent thinking among the greatest possible number of the workers. This could be achieved only through closest participation of all party comrades in party work, their intimate contact with the labor movement, i.e. only through the widest possible measure of democracy within the party This was entirely in accord with the ideas of Marx, who at the beginning of the movement regarded democracy less as a means of gaining political power and more as an instrument of education of the masses.
The Communist League, which Marx and Engels joined in 1847, was obliged to be a secret organization under the political circumstances then prevailing on the continent of Europe. And such, indeed, it was at the beginning. Such an organization presupposes the vesting of its leadership with dictatorial power. Marx and Engels declined to accept this, however. They joined the League only after it had ceased to be a conspiracy, although it had been obliged to remain a secret organization due to the absence of all freedom of organization. Engels reports about it as follows:
"The organization (of the Communist League itself was entirely democratic, with elected officials, always subject to removal, thereby putting an end to all urge for conspiracy, which requires dictatorship." (Introduction to K. Marx, "The Cologne Trial", Zurich 1885, p.10)
The First International of 1864, like its predecessor, the Communist League, was also compelled to maintain secret organizations in some countries. Nevertheless, Marx and Engels fought repeatedly against transforming the International into a conspiratory organization, as Mazzini would have it. Marx won over Mazzini. The first International was organized not dictatorially but democractically. Marx was also opposed to the manner in which the General Workingmen's Association was organized in Germany in 1863, in which Lassalle wielded dictatorial power. In contrast to the Lassalleans, the Eisenach group under Bebel and Liebknecht, who had Marx's support, was organized in 1869 democratically. The dictatorial form of organization in Germany gave way to the democratic form.
Nevertheless, the urge for a conspiratory organization with unlimited dictatorial power for the leader and blind obedience of the members continued to manifest itself wherever the organization had to be a secret one, where the masses did not as yet possess their own movement and where the political organization was regarded not as a means of educating the proletariat to independence but as a means of obtaining political power at one stroke. Not the class struggle but the PUTSCH, the COUP D'ETAT is thus brought into the foreground of interest, and together with this a form of militarist thinking there is carried into the party organization the kind of thinking which relies upon victory in civil war rather than upon intellectual and economic elevation of the masses. The latter are regarded as mere cannon fodder, whose utilization can be made all the easier the more obedient they are to any command, without independent thought and will of their own.
The Social Democracy of Russia was conceived as a democratic organization, in accordance with Marxian principles. But Lenin soon discovered that this was a mistake. He began to demand ever greater powers for the central organ of the party and increasingly circumscribed powers for the membership.
Paul Axelrod, Vera Zassulitch, Alexander Potresov, Julius Martov and, later, George Plekhanov opposed him. Even Rosa Luxemburg, who was more inclined to side with him in other matters, expressed misgivings on the score of dictatorship which Lenin sought to introduce in the party.
In his pamphlet "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back" (1904) Lenin went so far as to assert:
"Bureaucratism against democracy — that must be the organizational principle of the revolutionary Social-Democracy against the organizational principle of the opportunists." (p.51.)
I take the following from a criticism of Lenin by Rosa Luxemburg in "Die Neue Zeit" (XXII.2). She declared:
"The establishment of centralization in the Social Democracy on the basis of blind obedience, to the very smallest detail, to a central authority, in all matters of party organization and activity; a central authority which does all the thinking, attends to everything and decides everything; a central authority isolating the centre of the party from the surrounding revolutionary milieu-as demanded by Lenin-appears to us as an attempt to transfer mechanically the organizational principles of Blanquist conspiratory workmen's circles to the Social Democratic mass movement. (p.488, 489.)
"Lenin's ideas are calculated principally to promote control of party activity and not its development, to foster the limitation rather than the growth, the strangulation rather than the solidarity and expansion of the movement." (p.492.)
That was how Rosa Luxemburg characterized Leninism from its very beginning
Already in 1904, Rosa Luxemburg discovered that all that dictatorship in the party could accomplish was to stem and stifle the intellectual development of the workers. Yet, it is precisely in the early stages of a labor movement, in which alone a voluntary recognition of the dictatorship of any of its leaders is possible, that the education of the workers to independent thinking and action is far more important than the winning of power by the leaders.
For this reason, as early as 1904, Rosa Luxemburg perceived Leninism as an element inimical to the higher development of the working class. Naturally, she could not then foresee all the destructive influences it carried within itself.
In the meantime, at the very beginning of Leninism, another extremely injurious element became apparent side by side with its strangulations and stifling of the movement.
Like the God of monotheists, the dictator is a very jealous god. He tolerates no other gods but himself. Those in the party who do not believe in his divine infallibility provoke his fierce hatred. Lenin demanded that the entire working class submit meekly to his leadership. Those in the party who were inclined to show more confidence in other leaders or to defend opinions of their own were regarded by Lenin as the worst possible enemies, to be fought with any and all means.
Hence it was impossible for Lenin, as it is impossible for anyone who would be dictator of a party, to work together with comrades who occasionally differed from him. Hence the impossibility of working at all for any length of time on a level of equality with comrades of character and independence of thought.
Whenever dictatorship assumes powers in a party organism, that organism is bound to deteriorate intellectually, for dictatorship either degrades the best elements, compelling them to surrender their independence, or expels them from the party.
Dictatorship in the party starts out with the idea of bringing about a split in the party. This is apparent in the very nature of dictatorship. The dictator not only declines to combine his organization with other, independent working class organizations into a higher general organism, but he does not even think of cooperating at least occasionally with other socialist parties against the common enemy. Leninism had hardly begun to manifest itself in the Russian Social Democracy when it brought about a split into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
Intellectual impoverishment of its own party, obstruction of the intellectual development of the workers, their weakening by prolonged internecine conflict — these were the consequences of the Leninist party dictatorship even before the Russian Revolution of 1917.
That revolution brought with it a fundamental change in all social and political relations.
4. Lenin and the Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution of March 1917 occurred under circumstances which could not possibly have been more favorable for the socialist parties, even though not for the immediate introduction of Socialism. The czarist governmental machinery was in ruins, the obsolete nobility lay helpless, while the capitalist class, its capital largely of foreign origin, showed itself impotent. All-powerful were only the workers and intellectuals in combination with the peasantry. Among these the Socialists were in overwhelming majority — the Social Revolutionists among the peasants; the Social Democrats, Mensheviks as well as Bolsheviks, among the wage earners and intellectuals.
After the fall of Czarism it appeared self-evident that the various Socialist parties, the Social Democrats and Social Revolutionists would work together in the Soviets, and that the cooperation would embrace both wings of the Social Democracy, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. And why not? Did not all of them have a common aim: establishment of a democratic republic, the eight hour day, confiscation of the land?
But Lenin disliked intensely any such cooperation with the Socialists. Long before the revolution he had formed his own organization within the Social Democracy. This dual organization was built on military lines and within this organization Lenin had established his own dictatorship. For this reason he had brought about a split in the Russian Social Democracy in 1903 and declared war against all Social Democrats who had refused to pay blind obedience to his leadership.
After the split of 1903 and as late as July, 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the war, Lenin fought bitterly against unity with the Mensheviks. During the war he continued to preach the idea of split not only in the Russian Social Democracy but in the entire Socialist International. For this reason he fought bitterly against any united front of the workers when such a united front became possible after the revolution of 1917.
Lenin was in Switzerland when the revolution of March, 1917, occurred in Russia. He returned to Russia a month after the revolution and found a situation which made him very bitter. Shortly before his arrival there was held an all-Russian conference of Soviets which revealed a very great measure of agreement between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
"There followed at the conclusion of the conference a joint meeting of the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks to discuss unity of both factions. These negotiations were stopped through the arrival of Lenin, who succeeded in turning sharply the wheel of Bolshevist policy, although not without stubborn opposition of many influential Bolsheviks."
Lenin's aim in the Russian Revolution was to destroy not only all organs of self-administration, but also all other parties and social organizations, except his own.
To this end he employed falsehood, slander and brutal force against all opponents, among whom he counted all Socialists, except those who were willing to obey his commands. He finally succeeded in smashing all his opponents through his COUP D'ETAT of November 7, 1917.
Nevertheless, efforts were continued by some to bring about a government of all Socialist parties.
"At this time Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Rjazanov, Lozowski and other prominent Bolsheviks demanded the formation of a Socialist government composed of all Soviet parties. They declared that formation of a purely Bolshevist government would lead to a regime of terror and to the destruction of the revolution and the country."
But again Lenin won his point in the Bolshevist Parry. He hoped that the elections to the All Russian Constituent Assembly, which were then in progress, would bring him a majority.
Until 1917 the Bolshevist Party regarded the dictatorship within its organization as a means of struggle for democracy in the state, and Lenin's fight for democracy in the state proceeded along the line of the other socialist parties. Like the latter, as late as 1917, he demanded the convocation of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal suffrage.
The elections to the Constituent Assembly revealed that the Bolshevist Party had far from a majority in the Constituent Assembly. But the Socialist parties — Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and Social Revolutionists — constituted an overwhelming majority in the assembly. (The Bolsheviks had approximately one fourth of the membership, the Socialist Revolutionists having a majority. — Ed.) Once more the Bolsheviks had an opportunity to take part in a Socialist united front, which could be the basis of a government supported by the overwhelming majority of the people. A government founded on such a basis and having virtually the entire people behind it would have been in a position to crush without any difficulty any attempt at counterrevolution. In fact, any such attempt would have been nipped in the bud.
Had the Bolsheviks at that time agreed to a united front, Russia would have been spared the three years of civil war and the consequent horrible misery. Peace and freedom would have made possible rapid economic recovery and with it a speedy development of the working class, which in turn, would have promoted the realization of a large measure of Socialist economy and its successful administration. All this would have been possible without dictatorship, without terror, through the democracy of the workers and peasants. To be sure, we cannot say with certainty that this would have actually come to pass, but this was the only road that offered a possibility of obtaining for the people through the revolution as great a measure of liberty and welfare as existing circumstances permitted. But this would have been possible only through the establishment of a revolutionary government supported by the overwhelming majority of the population. Such a government could have been set up only on the basis of a united front of all Socialist parties.
This united front was rendered impossible by the insatiable yearning for power on the part of Lenin and other leaders of the Bolsheviks. They dissolved the Constituent Assembly, which they themselves had previously so passionately championed, and with the help of the politically inexperienced and ignorant soldiery drawn from the disorganized army, whose support they had won by limitless and irresponsible promises, they succeeded in seizing power, by means of which they strengthened their own parry, organized on militarist lines, and crushed completely all their opponents.
The Bolsheviks attained power and have been ruling ever since not through the confidence and support of the majority of the people.
There were two roads open: the road of a Socialist united front or the road of power for the Bolsheviks alone over all other Socialists. It was the Bolsheviks who utilized a favorable combination of circumstances to render impossible any united front in order that they might establish their own dictatorship.
Having established this dictatorship, they inevitably created a situation in which only the mailed fist, unconcerned too much with intellectual and moral restraints, can be victorious.
To emphasize their differentiation from the Social Democracy the Bolsheviks have called themselves Communists since 1918.
Upon the ruins of democracy, for which Lenin had fought until 1917, he erected his political power. Upon these ruins he set up a new militarist-bureaucratic police machinery of state, a new autocracy. This gave him weapons against the other Socialists even more potent than shameless lies. He now had in his hands all the instruments of repression which czarism had used, adding to these weapons also those instruments of oppression which the capitalist, as the owner of the means of production, uses against wage slaves. Lenin now commanded all the means of production, utilizing his state power for the erection of his state capitalism.
No form of capitalism makes the workers so absolutely dependent upon it as centralized state capitalism in a state without an effective democracy. And no political police is so powerful and omnipresent as the Cheka or G.P.U., created by men who had spent many years in fighting the czarist police, and knowing its methods as well as its weaknesses and shortcomings, knew also how to improve upon them.
It would have been absolutely unnecessary to resort to any of these instruments of repression had Lenin agreed to form a coalition with the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionists in 1917. These parties commanded the support of the overwhelming majority of the population, as the elections to the Constituent Assembly had shown. Everything of a truly progressive nature which the Bolsheviks sought at that time to realize was also part of the program of the other Socialist parties and would have been carried out by them, for the people had empowered them to do so. The confiscation of the big landed estates had also been planned by the Social Revolutionists and Mensheviks-they actually put it into effect in Georgia. Abolition of illiteracy, marriage law reform, social welfare measures, children's homes, public hospitals, shop councils, unemployment insurance and laws for the protection of labor, about all of which such a big-to-do is being made in Soviet Russia, have been attained to a much greater and more perfect degree in capitalist countries where the democracy of labor has won any considerable power. The socialization of heavy industry, insofar as this would have appeared economically advantageous, would likewise have been approved by the majority of the Constituent Assembly.
All the innovations in the domain of social welfare in which the Communists take so much pride and which so greatly impress tourists would have been introduced by the majority of the Constituent Assembly, and in much better fashion than the dictatorship has been able to do, because the country's economic condition would have been immeasurably better. All the social welfare measures in force in Russia suffer from lack of resources, the hasty and ill-prepared manner in which they have been introduced, as well as from the methods of brutal force used by the dictators even in instances where abstention from force would have been more advantageous. Many workers were thereby embittered against the new regime when their willing cooperation was possible and necessary.
How disgusting and unnecessary, for example, have been the forms of struggle against religion in Soviet Russia. The dictatorship does not seek to find a substitute for religion by promoting independent critical thinking and knowledge — such methods are not in the nature of dictatorship. Religious services and institutions, sacred to the devout, are subject to the coarsest insults and humiliations. Without the slightest necessity, harmless, devout folk are embittered and made to suffer while simultaneously the free thinkers themselves are degraded by such low forms of anti-religious propaganda.
All such difficulties of social change as arise from lack of means, undue haste, opposition of the population, would have largely been averted if these changes had been the work of the Constituent Assembly. They were accomplished directly or indirectly through the civil war, which was the inevitable consequence of Lenin's dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by the hands of his sailors in January 1918.
The majority behind the Constituent Assembly was so overwhelming that not a single one of the czarist generals dared move against it. Had any one of them ventured to do so he would have had no following. These generals were emboldened to counter-revolutionary mutiny only AFTER Lenin had dissolved Constituent Assembly and enabled them to put forward the pretense of seeking to restore the rights of the Assembly.
Had Lenin not dissolved the Constituent Assembly, Russia would have been spared the civil war with all its horrors, cruelties and destruction. How much richer the country would have been, how much greater the good of the social transformation! All the enormous expenditures of the military bureaucratic police apparatus, insofar as it has been devoted to purposes of repression, could have been spared. These expenditures could have been applied to productive purposes for the promotion of the general welfare.
The population should have been accorded the greatest possible measure of freedom, freedom of the press, of assembly, of organization, of self-government. Under such conditions the masses would have speedily developed economically, physically, intellectually. All this stimulation of independent thinking and mutual confidence among the workers, peasants and intellectuals would have genuinely enhanced the development of socialist production, of a nation of liberty, equality, fraternity.
This noble development was halted on the day when Lenin ordered his military bands to make an end of the Constituent Assembly.
Certainly, the fact that it proved easy to dissolve it indicates the high degree of political immaturity of the elements who dominated Petrograd at that time — quite ignorant soldiery who had but one wish, immediate peace, and who sensed that Lenin's dictatorship was the one infallible instrument to bring it about.
Not the confidence of the majority of the working class but the complication of the revolution by the war brought Bolshevism to power. And because it did not possess this confidence it was compelled, once in power, to maintain itself by terrorism, which it is employing to this day without the slightest prospect of its mitigation.
It is often said that terror belongs to the nature of revolution, that revolutions are not made with rose water or silk gloves, and that this has ever been so.
It is, indeed, a peculiar revolutionism which asserts that what has always been must ever be so. Moreover, it is not true that there never were revolutions without terror. The great French Revolution began in 1789, but the terror did not come until September 1792, and only as a consequence of war. Not the revolution but war brought about the terror as well as the dictatorship. Revolutions resort to terror only when they are driven to civil war.
This was absolutely unnecessary in Russia in 1917. Democracy had been achieved. The workers and peasants were in power. The demands of labor could have been satisfied by democratic methods, insofar as these demands were compatible with the interests of the peasantry and with the material resources available.
The rule of the overwhelming majority in the interest of the overwhelming majority does not require the use of brutal force in a democratic state in order to assert itself.
In the election to the Constituent Assembly 36,000,000 votes were cast, of which only 4,000,000 were polled by the bourgeois parties and 32,000,000 by the socialist parties. The Assembly was in no way threatened from the right. It was in a position to proceed undisturbed, with full hope of success, with the task of the regeneration of Russia and preparation for Socialism.
As the Bolsheviks saw it, it had but one great fault: they had failed to obtain a majority in it. The Bolsheviks received 9,000,000, while 23,000,000 votes were cast for the other Socialist parties. This was an intolerable situation for any brave Bolshevik. The Constituent Assembly would have carried out everything in the interests of labor that was at all realizable, and in more rational, more successful manner than the Bolsheviks acting alone have been able to do. But this would have required the Bolsheviks to act merely as equals and not as a party of dictatorship issuing orders from above.
Against any such democratic procedure the Bolsheviks struggled with all their might, and they utilized a favorable situation to dissolve the Constituent Assembly. This blow they struck not against a czarist, aristocratic, bourgeois or "white guardist" counter revolution but against the other Socialist parties, who had been more successful than the Bolsheviks in the struggle for the soul of the workers and peasants.
Hence, the abolition of all democratic rights of masses, ergo the terror. It was the necessary consequence of the rule of a minority over the great majority of the people. Hence, the fact that the terror has been indispensable for the Bolsheviks not only in the civil war but throughout the years after its conclusion. They resort to terror not only as a means of repelling counter-revolution but as an instrument of holding down and destroying all revolutionists among the workers and peasants who refuse to submit without protest to the whip of the new Red czar and his Communist Cossacks.
Having seized control, Lenin at once conceived himself powerful enough to undertake from above and by utopian methods the carrying out of a task which until then he himself as a disciplined Marxist had regarded as unrealizable, namely the immediate establishment of the Socialist order of production with the aid of an immature working class. It should be noted that it was a question not of village communism, for the private economy of the individual peasant was preserved (until the collectivization under Stalin — Ed.), but of state economy in industry and commerce.
This was the task undertaken by Lenin, in opposition to the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionists, who declared the undertaking utopian and unrealizable. They likewise denounced the dictatorship and the destruction of democracy.
5. The Communist International
Wherein do the Russian people differ from other peoples of our capitalist civilization? First of all, of course, in their economic and political backwardness. As a result of this backwardness any Socialist party in present-day Russia would be unavoidably driven to the methods of utopianism and dictatorship if it were placed in power by the force of extraordinary circumstances, without support of the majority of the population, and if its own illusions impelled it to undertake the immediate task of building Socialism. Therein lies the explanation of the Bolshevik methods in Russia. The experiments of the utopian Socialists in Western Europe a hundred years ago were likewise impelled by the insufficient development of the working class in their countries. The methods of both the old utopians and the Bolsheviks are not mere accidents, but derive their logic from immature conditions. But this explanation offers just as little proof now as it did in the time of the utopians that these methods can lead to the desired aim. To prove the wisdom of the Bolshevik methods one would have to prove first that the Russian workers possess some peculiar inherent socialist powers which the workers of Western Europe lack. So far the existence of such powers has not been established.
This in fact was the view held by Lenin himself as late as 1918. He believed that the revolution in Russia would be the signal for a social revolution in Western capitalist countries, and that only the establishment of a Socialist order in these countries could furnish the direction and the means for Socialist construction in Russia. Lenin undertook this construction in the hope of a world revolution which, according to his belief, was to break out immediately.
In this he was deceived. Instead of the world revolution came civil war in Russia. This war helped to some extent in the establishment of a militarized state economy. This, indeed, is the result of every war, even in capitalist countries, if the war is of long duration and demands great sacrifices. But this compulsory economy can by no means be regarded as a higher, socialist economy. It is only a temporary measure necessitated by an extreme emergency.
When the civil war in Russia subsided and all the hopes for a world revolution vanished, doubts began to arise in the minds of the Bolshevist rulers as to whether "military communism" would last long. Lacking a basis in the initiative and discipline of the working class, this new regime could be maintained only with the aid of a bureaucratic apparatus, as unwieldy as it was inefficient, and by means of military discipline in the factories and brutal terrorism practiced by an all-powerful political police throughout the state. "Military communism" resulted in a constant fall of production and brought the country to an ever-growing economic decline.
This was soon recognized by the majority of the Bolsheviks themselves. Lenin created a breach in this Communism by making some concession to private economy (NEP, 1921), and that gave the country a short breathing spell. Lenin himself called it a respite. And, in fact, Russia under "military Communism" was gasping for breath.
Before the war Lenin did not find in the Socialist International the favorable conditions for the promotion of his party dictatorship in Russia. To avoid being isolated he was compelled to accept democracy in the International, not only platonically but in fact. However distasteful he found some decisions of the congresses of the International, he confined himself to criticism, which was his right, but did not venture to defy them.
This situation changed after the World War had temporarily halted the functioning of the International. In 1915, a group representing some elements of the International met in Zimmerwald, Switzerland. These were not entirely of the same opinions however. Some wanted to revive the old International, while others proposed the creation of a new, THIRD International, from which all Socialist parties which did not accept the demands of the founders of the new International were to be excluded. The Bolsheviks, commanded by Lenin, were to form the nucleus of the new body. From the outset, therefore, their object was not to rebuild but to split the International.
The war had hardly come to an end when they undertook to form the new, Third International, in opposition to the old one, which in the meanwhile (1919 had again begun to function. The grandiose experiment undertaken by the Bolsheviks could not help influencing the Socialist parties of the Western countries. These parties, until then united, now split. A part of them enthusiastically joined the Bolsheviks and began to apply their methods in Western Europe and America. This led to the rise of the Communist parties. The majority remained faithful to the old Socialist principles and rejected the Communist methods under all circumstances. As between these two currents there soon appeared a third one. The latter rejects the Bolshevik methods for its own country but believes that these methods axe justified in Russia. Contrary to the democratic structure of the First and Second Internationals, the THIRD or Communist International, also known as the Comintern, was rigidly dictatorial. It established its permanent seat in Moscow and became merely the tool of the Russian government, which thus obtained a large number of agents abroad, some of them sincere and enthusiastic supporters and others well paid agents, but all of them blind instruments of the Moscow centre without any will of their own.
The times seemed to favor the Soviet rulers. They expected a world revolution which they, the world's most successful revolutionists, would lead. The dictatorship over Russia was to be extended to a world dictatorship.
But the calculations upon which they based their plans for world domination proved erroneous. Their dictatorship fitted the peculiar conditions then prevailing in Russia but was abhorrent to the peoples of Western civilization. Moreover, even in Russia the Communist dictatorship could assert itself only because of the abnormal conditions which ensued upon the military collapse of 1917.
Only those who never understood the nature of the modern state could have expected a revolution in every belligerent country at the end of the war. Revolutions occurred only in defeated military monarchies. But in these, too, the Communists failed to win. No highly developed working class will accept dictatorship, however proletarian its colors, as instrument of emancipation.
The idea of a Communist world revolution met with a quite different fate than the Communist dictatorship in Russia. The latter was victorious and has been able to maintain itself unbroken to this day. The former suffered complete failure. But the efforts to put the idea of a Communist world revolution into effect did not pass without trace.
The Socialist observer outside who failed to look beneath the surface was impressed by the spectacle of the Soviet Republic. Such an observer did not understand that everything that was purely progressive in the new state was merely the execution of that which the other Socialist parties of Russia had already pioneered and prepared. All this they would have carried out through the Constituent Assembly with its overwhelming Socialist majority, under much more favorable conditions, with the enthusiastic participation of the population, and in a manner much more rational than the Bolsheviks have been able to do in the midst of civil war, which they themselves had provoked, with its consequent enormous destruction of productive forces and extensive paralysis of the activity of the people.
The superficial Socialist observer, his wish being father to his thought, likewise failed to understand that under democratic forms the revolution would have led to a speedy rise of the intellectual and economic powers of the people, whereas under the dictatorship even the hopeful beginnings for the development of the masses laid down in decades of struggle under Czarism were shattered. What impressed the superficial observer was the fact that for the first time in history a socialist party had come into power in a state, the largest in Europe.
For this reason there was at first wide sympathy for Communist Russia in the circles of Western European Socialism. Bolshevism had become strong through dictatorship in the party. It had succeeded in achieving dictatorship in the state. Now it would be satisfied with nothing less than dictatorship over the world proletariat. All those outside of Russia who would not bow to such dictatorship were denounced as enemies, even though they may have looked upon the Communist police dictatorship as quite all right for the Russian proletariat. This failed to satisfy the Moscow dictators. They called upon all Socialists to recognize the wisdom and desirability of this dictatorship for the entire world.
Many refused to go along with Bolshevism to any such point. The Bolsheviks insisted, however, that it was the duty of every worker, and particularly of every Marxist, to submit to their dictatorship. Those who declined to do so were branded as "class enemies, counter-revolutionists, miserable traitors, more dangerous and corrupting than direct class enemies."
The Bolsheviks looked upon the bourgeois parties only as enemies with whom it was possible to negotiate under certain conditions and to conclude an armistice. On the other hand, they regarded the Socialists as cowardly deserters or rascally mutineers, fit to be hung.
In this manner the Communists succeeded in weakening very materially the forces of labor in all countries, at a time when the old regimes had collapsed in many states, although no world revolution was to be expected, and when the working class throughout Europe had attained a position of higher significance. By considering their dictatorship more important than the unity of the working class, the Communists split the Socialists parties outside of Russia after the war as they had split the Socialists parties inside Russia before the war. They aggravated this division of the forces of labor by extending the schism into the ranks of the trade unions.
The Communist parties which arose outside of Russia as a result of this policy were forbidden to have any views of their own but were obliged to follow blindly the orders of the centre in Moscow. This centre was always very badly informed as to conditions abroad, its mercenary tools and informers reporting the situation not as it really was but as the dictator in Russia wished it to be. Every despot in history was always thus misled by his servile tools. As a consequence, the Communists abroad were frequently drawn into senseless adventures, which brought them severe and often annihilating defeat and which, in turn, were very detrimental in their prolonged repercussions upon the workers of the countries in question.
The ultimate expression of this criminal policy was the fact that whenever a Socialist party found itself engaged in a bitter struggle with the reactionary bourgeois enemy, the Communists not only failed to support the Socialists but stabbed them in the back, thus giving aid and comfort to reaction. Weakening of the forces of labor and strengthening of the enemy was the consequence of the policy of the Communist International. The Communists devoted all their energies to the destruction of the Social Democratic parties, the free trade unions and the cooperatives. This had led, in turn, to the weakening of the revolution and of the labor movement as a whole, and to the triumph of the counter-revolution in all countries where circumstances have favored the rise of dictators operating on the principles governing the dictator in the Kremlin, the principles under which we are asked to reject "all moral and intellectual restraint." This was neither mere accident nor occasional mistake but the inevitable result of the policy of dictatorship in the party, in the state, in the International begun by Lenin three decades ago, and which had become the foundation stone of his sect.
6. Is Soviet Russia A Socialist State?
We do not know whether Lenin would have continued the NEP. He died in 1924. After his death, differences arose among the Bolsheviks on the question of the NEP. And indeed its development demanded the adoption of a definite policy. It was necessary either to extend the system, which promised an economic upturn but threatened the existence of the dictatorship, or to abolish the NEP and return to integral communism. It was the latter that was decided upon by Stalin, who had gained unlimited authority among Lenin's followers.
State industry, however, was in a precarious condition and facing imminent ruin. Its production apparatus had to be overhauled. And so once more the Bolsheviks recalled Marxist doctrine, upon which after all Bolshevism at the beginning was founded, namely, that modern Socialism could develop only on the basis of a highly advanced heavy industry. It was decided, therefore, to create this industry at express train speed with the aid of a Five Year Plan. Within five years, beginning with 1928, it was planned to build an industrial organization that was to eclipse even that of the United States.
The Five Year Plan was undertaken as a result of the desperate economic situation in Soviet Russia. War and civil war had undermined all industry. Added to these were the effects of the original nationalization of industrial plants in 1918, under which industry found itself in a state fluctuating between anarchy and militarization. The output of Russian industry was rapidly approaching zero.
This situation, emphasized by the Kronstadt rebellion, (in 1921) led to the New Economic Policy, which continued until 1928, the year of the introduction of the Five Year Plan. The NEP and return to peace brought a temporary revival of economic life. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks could not stop with the New Economic Policy. They did not realize that intellectuals were part of a working class, that the working class could not emancipate itself and achieve a higher order of production without the full and willing cooperation of a sufficient number of able and well trained intellectuals.
The socialist conceptions of the Bolsheviks were so primitive and crude that they failed to realize this. They preached the gospel of the mailed fist of labor, branded the intellectuals (insofar as they were not members of the Communist Party) as on a par with the "bourgeoisie" and the capitalists, and reduced them to the condition of pariahs without any rights. But the Communists soon realized that they did not have within their own ranks an adequate supply of talent capable of directing industrial plants. Their operation had to be entrusted to "class enemies," who from the beginning regarded the new economy as misguided and destructive, and whose opposition was accentuated by the ill treatment accorded them. Looked upon with distrust, they were subjected to constant control by utterly incapable fanatical Communists, and made the scapegoats for every failure. Under the desperate conditions prevailing, failures continued to multiply while the managers of Soviet industry, living in an atmosphere of increasing terrorism, found themselves helpless in the hands of their Communists masters.
Lack of skilled labor constituted an additional difficulty. Shortage of such labor was also a feature of czarist Russia, due to lack of proper educational facilities. The war had served to reduce still more the number of skilled workers, while curtailing the training of additional forces. This shortage was further aggravated during the revolution when many skilled workers — provided they were Communists or "non-partisans" — were transferred as a matter of favoritism from the factories to government jobs.
All this put industry at a great disadvantage. Worst of all, however, was the effect of the tremendous state apparatus which the dictatorship had to set up in order to maintain itself. Nationalized industry was subjected to the domination of this machine which, under the circumstances, assumed increasingly larger proportions. The dictatorship inevitably brought about a condition in which all organizations subordinate to it were deprived of any independence. The absence of any outlet for open criticism made it necessary to extend in ever growing measure the task of keeping watch over the state apparatus, in proportion as it grew in scope and unwieldiness. This slow, top-heavy, artificial, bureaucratic machine vitiated the joy and efficiency of labor. An inevitable concomitant of these conditions was the spread of corruption, which certainly did not improve matters.
The leading Bolsheviks themselves looked with dissatisfaction upon the degeneration of economic life arising from the effects of the rampant bureaucracy. Individual departments came under the criticism of the Soviet press. This was so called "self-criticism." But all that these outbursts of indignation against the bureaucrats accomplished was punishment of a few scapegoats and individuals guilty of particularly glaring inefficiency.
These were the reasons why Soviet industry was unable to move forward with any marked degree of success under the NEP, although production did increase somewhat over that of 1918-21, the period of "military communism."
Prices of industrial commodities rose above pre-war and world-market levels. The purchasing power of the peasant declined in growing measure as a result of the state's determined efforts to keep down prices of farm products. This gave rise to a dangerous oppositionist tendency on the part of the peasants, who replied by cutting down production in the face of the disquieting growth of the population, which was proceeding at the rate of more than 3,000,000 annually. Worst of all, was the fact that despite all increases in prices industry was able to meet only wages and costs of materials, without any margin to cover wear and tear of machinery, to say nothing of creating a surplus for the extension of plants and equipment commensurate with the tremendous growth in population. The production apparatus taken over by the Soviet Government from its capitalist predecessors was rapidly deteriorating. This threatened to bring industry to a complete standstill.
Under Stalin's leadership the Soviet Government there upon decided to embark upon an attempt as bold as it was colossal of extricating itself from the swamp which threatened to engulf it. All of Russia's resources were to be mobilized and concentrated, to the neglect of all other branches of activity, upon the development of heavy industry. In the event of success, it was contemplated to develop similarly the lighter industries, agriculture and, finally, the cultural domain. Heavy industry was to be developed as quickly as possible, the fear being that even as powerful a national organism as the Russian people could not very long withstand the enormous strain to which it was being subjected by the task set before it. Heavy industry was to be completely reorganized within five years, the promise being, however, that the beneficient effects of new construction were to manifest themselves in an improvement of living conditions within two to three years.
This was to be the Five Year Plan. The plan was immediately put into execution with all the zeal and energy available. But the causes which had contributed to the failure of industry under the NEP, despite the temporary improvement, remained unaltered: lack of skilled labor, the outlawing of plant managers, and particularly the crippling of production by the monstrous, bureaucratic machine which is simultaneously the instrument of the governing apparatus of the dictatorship and the administrative apparatus of production.
To the old misery which the Five Year Plan inherited and perpetuated had been added a great deal of new suffering. This was inevitable. The execution of the plan required immense capital. Where was this to be obtained? Capitalist industry creates tremendous surplus values which permit the capitalists not only to live and to maintain expensive armies and navies, but to accumulate also immense capital reserves. Soviet industry has barely managed to pay wages and costs of materials. The costs of the army, the police, the bureaucracy, the state controlled press, the Communist Party must be met for the most part by exploitation of the peasantry. Under these circumstances, how were the enormous resources necessary for the realization of the Five Year Plan to be obtained? Through loans from capitalist countries of the "decayed West?"
These, to be sure, the Bolsheviks tried hard to obtain, but the credits received, through maneuvers of doubtful moral character, were very far from sufficient. Only from Russia herself could the great bulk of the capital necessary for the Five Year Plan be sought, for the machinery required and supplied by foreign capitalists had to be paid for.
The problem, could, therefore, be solved only by depriving the Russian population, which contains virtually no capitalists but only wage-earners, peasants and intellectuals, of the product of its labor to the extent which would barely keep it from revolting or dying of hunger in the streets. Everything that can possibly be squeezed out of the people was sold in the world market at any price. The proceeds were devoted to purchasing machinery and equipment from capitalists abroad. During the "Piatiletka" (Russian term for the Five Year Plan), there were accomplished indeed colossal things that aroused the amazement and admiration of the capitalist world and of many Socialists who had previously maintained a skeptical attitude toward the Bolshevik experiment. Some of them took the view which they themselves had previously rejected. They said, "Well, it is true that the Bolshevik methods are not suitable for us; nevertheless they seem to lead to socialist construction in Russia."
An indirect criticism of this view was once offered by Lenin himself in the days of czarism, when he was ridiculing the czarist government. In January 1905, he published in the newspaper "Vperiod" an article about the Russian reverses in the war with Japan, where he clearly proved that those reverses were the result of Russia's lack of freedom, which hindered the efforts of energetic and selfreliant people without whom it was impossible to win a war.
"Events have proved," wrote Lenin, "how right those foreigners were that tens and hundreds of millions of roubles were wasted on the purchase and construction of magnificent dreadnoughts, and who pointed out that all these expenditures were useless in the absence of people capable of handling modern military machinery and navigating modern vessels."
This applies both to machines intended for destruction and those built for production. Machines are useless if there are no competent people to tend them.
Indeed, what characterizes modern production is not only a highly developed technique but also highly qualified workers who know how to operate the latest machinery and who are to be found in sufficient numbers only in a democracy. These workers are the prerequisites, even to a larger extent than the machines, of a true Socialist society that guarantees welfare and freedom to all.
In Russia, however, under the Czar as well as under the Bolsheviks all efforts have always been directed toward importing the modern technique of capitalist countries, but not the freedom which creates modern men.
In the '60's of the past century, under the influence of the defeat suffered in the Crimean War, a liberal movement sprang up among a section of the Russian nobility. This faction, after abolishing serfdom, wanted to emulate the English aristocracy in conducting a modern economy. The abolition of serfdom brought to some of the landowners large indemnities which they used in the purchase of agricultural machinery in England. But they could not import English workers along with the machinery, or if they could it was only in small numbers. The peasants, who by law had just been freed from serfdom but who in reality continued to be the slaves of the landowners arid of absolutism, showed little capacity for handling modern machinery. The machines soon fell into disrepair and became junk.
The promoters of the Piatiletka disregarded these early experiences. They too, believed that all that was necessary was to import as many new machines as possible from the industrial countries. They forget that it was necessary also to create the political and social conditions that furthered the development of modern men. Still less did they think of the fact that such men cannot be developed as fast as new machines are created, and, for this purpose, the Five Year Plan was not enough.
But to create new machines in the face of a lack of qualified workmen means not to increase the productive forces of the country, but only to waste its resources.
Furthermore, Stalin and his men during the Piatiletka were wasting national wealth in a manner quite different from the method employed in the sixties by the liberal landowners. The latter spent for the purchase of machinery only such funds as would have been wasted in gambling, in trips to Paris, etc. The condition of their peasants did not grow worse on account of it. Quite different is the case with Stalin. All the wealth of Russia which her exploiters had been able to garner before the World War by accumulating the surplus value that flowed into their pockets had been spent or destroyed first in the war, then in the civil war, and finally in consequence of the establishment of a bureaucratic state economy by the Bolsheviks. The large sums of money needed for the creation of the new industrial apparatus could be raised only be extracting as much as possible of the newly-created surplus value from the laboring masses. But the productivity of these masses was quite small. Under Czarism the wages and standard of living of the workers were pitifully low. They declined further during the world war and civil war. During the NEP period, they rose somewhat. Now they have been greatly reduced again in order to obtain money for the purchase of machines.
Foreign tourists in Russia stand in silent amazement before the gigantic enterprises created there, as they stand before the pyramids, for example. Only seldom does the thought occur to them what enslavement, what lowering of human self-esteem was connected with the construction of those gigantic establishments.
The Russian land-owners imported machinery without improving the condition of the peasants or adding to their freedom. This was the cause of the failure of their technical reform plan. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, imported machinery by rendering the condition of the workers immeasurably worse and curtailing their freedom. They extracted the means for the creation of material productive forces by destroying the most essential productive force of all-the laboring man. In the terrible conditions created by the Piatiletka, people rapidly perished. Soviet films, of course, did not show this. But to convince oneself one only has to inquire of Western European and American workers who went to work in Russia to escape the capitalist hell and find happiness in the Soviet paradise. After a short stay, these workers hurried back to their former "hell," where conditions may have been bad enough but yet more bearable than was the condition of the workers or even privileged persons on the other side of the Soviet border.
The results of the Piatiletka have turned out to be terrible largely because the Bolsheviks, not content with setting up a large number of gigantic industrial establishments, undertook to transform the individual peasant economy forthwith into a gigantic collective economy, doing precisely that which Lenin had prudently abstained from. For Lenin was able to win because he energetically supported the demands of the peasants who were bent on taking possession of the land of the landowners. It must be noted, however, that this support was quite unnecessary to the peasants, inasmuch as the Social Revolutionists and Mensheviks sided with the peasants in this question and had promulgated the division of the land among the peasants before the Bolsheviks had seized power.
But Stalin needed money for a program of rapid industrialization on a gigantic scale. Those enterprises which already existed were working on a deficit, and therefore the expedient of extracting more from the peasants seemed all the more necessary. This method of procedure encountered many difficulties when applied to the individual, free peasants who had enough resistance power. Hence, the idea of combining the individual peasant holdings into gigantic collectives, the so called "kolkhozy," ruled by the state. From such enterprises, the state thought to collect a much larger share of their production than from individual peasants. But the peasants would not join the "kolkhozy." Therefore they must be compelled to join them by force. Thus, the diligent and willing toil of free peasants was replaced with the compulsory labor of unwilling serfs. And the yield of such labor is always poor in quality and quantity. It can be managed only with the aid of the most primitive and simple tools of production. A man working under compulsion will quickly damage any kind of complicated tool. And yet the kolkhozy were supposed to be the last word of efficiency and modernity in agricultural economy. They were supplied with the best American implements. With the change to the new methods of production, cattle were to a large extent slaughtered. The member of the kolkhoz was compelled to work with the new implements of production which were not suited to him, for they require free, highly-skilled workers. The old implements, to which he had become accustomed, are gone. It is easy to imagine the results accomplished by a man working against his will and interests. And in fact, since the introduction of "Socialist construction," the productivity of Russian agriculture has been declining appreciably. At present there is real famine in that agricultural country. In the days of the Czar we were perfectly justified in denouncing famine in Russia as evidence of the rottenness of the political order. But the famine in Russia this year exceeds anything known before. It rages practically all over the Ukraine, in Northern Caucasus and the Lower Volga region, the most fertile sections of the country-the very ones in which the collectivization of agriculture has been most extensive.
There are some who admitting the economic weaknesses of the Soviet regime continue to have faith in its aims and possibilities. But are not these economic weaknesses of the regime themselves due to the fact that the social transformation possible under the historical and structural conditions prevailing in the Soviet Union cannot by the very nature of things be a socialist one? By its very nature, the Soviet regime cannot create anything beyond a purely governmental economy with an enormously unproductive bureaucracy. Is this not the kind of economy the socialist character of which has always been denied by Socialists?
The highly rationalized technology of some Soviet industrial plants which, like the rest of Soviet economy, are woefully unproductive when looked upon from any true economic point of view, is but a drop in the bucket as a positive factor when viewed from the standpoint of the interests of the national welfare. Still, the Bolsheviks continue to speak glibly of the necessity of "greatest sacrifices" in the present as the price of "future welfare."
Great sacrifices cannot be waved aside quite so easily. Who will guarantee that "the future welfare" under the dictatorship will be anything more than a Fata Morgana? This dictatorship is pictured by some as the dictatorship of a minority animated by faith, enthusiasm and readiness for higher self-sacrifice in behalf of a great human ideal, and seeking to impose that ideal upon the great majority of 170,000,000 people.
I see the present generation of Communists, i.e. not those in the opposition but those in power, in quite a different light. A few among them may still be regarded as idealists, but too many of them have succumbed to the inevitable consequences nurtured by the dictatorship. These are the consequences of every despotism, which inevitably cultivates and encourages a conscienceless element eager to adapt itself to the needs of the powers that be, spies, stool pigeons, informers, careerists.
How can a ruling caste among whom such elements dominate in increasing measure the despotism from which they sprang, while ejecting progressively the influence of decent comrades, be animated by any readiness for high self-sacrifice in the name of a great human ideal? No doubt, they speak much of sacrifice, as do many German Nazis, they demand immeasurable sacrifices of others, but never of themselves. They themselves are quite comfortable as long as the Communist Parry remains in power.
The Russian Communist Party which is seeking to impose this road to "future welfare" upon 170,000,000 human beings embraces some 2,000,000 members. How many among them are spies, informers, careerists?
Socialism could be brought about only by an independent movement of an overwhelming majority. It is the task of the Socialists to lead in this movement. And when they are confronted, with the apathy of the majority, they must seek to enlighten it and to win it over to their side. Under no circumstances must they seek to dominate it by violence and compulsion. Only when minorities of exploiters try to hold down by force majorities of exploited do we consider the use of force against such minorities justified. But never against the majority of the. population, however reactionary it may be.
Under Czarism the working class of Russia had to contend against very limited opportunities for political and social development. Nevertheless, a large portion of the working class managed to utilize whatever opportunities were available to the best possible advantage and to enlarge these opportunities in constant, stubborn struggle against the oppressors. With the breakdown of absolutism in 1917, the expectation was justified that under the new democratic conditions the elite of the Russian workers would continue to make rapid progress and carry the masses with them.
Then came the Bolsheviks and destroyed all the seeds that had sprouted so hopefully by imposing upon the people a regime that is much more oppressive. The old revolutionary idealists, insofar as they failed to become Communists, were killed, driven into exile or silenced in prison cells. Of former Bolsheviks themselves many have disappeared and died; many have submitted in hopeless resignation or have been corrupted by posts of power. Of the new generation now rising, an ever decreasing minority belongs to the Communist Party. The greater portion of this minority has fallen victim to those perversions of character which the possession of limitless power inevitably cultivates — among Communists as well as among princes. The overwhelming majority of the people, however, has been shorn of all human dignity, all capacity for action, and reduced to the level of starved and beaten beasts of burden. The fact that they appear to submit and to bear silently, without protest, with aching heart, all the heavy sacrifices and privations heaped upon them by their new masters is not to be regarded as in the nature of the heroic but as extremely depressing.
The Russian working class has declined progressively with every year from the height to which it had attained in 1917. It is not approaching closer to Socialism, but is moving constantly away from it, and is losing in every increasing measure the capacity for self-determination in the labor process. State slavery does not become Socialism merely because the slave drivers call themselves Communists.
The methods of dictatorship in general and of the Five Year Plan in particular do not constitute the road to Socialism, but rather the road away from it.
Certainly, it is the aim of Socialists to deprive the capitalists of the means of production. But that in itself is not enough. We must also determine who is to control these means of production. When another minority takes the place of the capitalists and controls the means of production, independently of the people and frequently against their will, the change in property relations thus accomplished signifies least of all Socialism. There are forms of Oriental despotism in which the master of the state wield also mastery over the country's instruments of production. In comparison with this form of state economy, the capitalist system of production is much less oppressive, and resistance to it much more promising of results. In Russia it is the government, not the people, who controls the means of production. The government is thus the master of the people.
The Socialism toward which Social Democracy is striving is a mode of production superior to capitalism. But the latter constitutes the highest of all modes of production yet developed: large industries with free workers who as yet have no authority over their means of production. Collective ownership and management of large enterprises with fullest freedom for the workers is Socialism, which is superior to industrial capitalism. But this capitalism is superior not only to the small industry of the guild craftsman, but also to large industry with compulsory labor, as well as to every form of state economy based upon conscript labor. Every economy of this sort must be rejected in spite of the fact that it is not capitalist. I do not agree with Max Adler who, arguing against me, once said that "for a Marxist the duty to participate in and sympathize with every movement against capitalism is a moral axiom."
Our duty is not merely to abolish the capitalist order but to set up a higher order in its place. But we must oppose those forces aiming to destroy capitalism only to replace it with a barbarous mode of production.
It is for this reason that the democratically-minded portion of the working class must oppose all tendencies toward dictatorship threatening the freedom of the workers, tendencies manifested not only by the capitalists but also those that originate with anti-capitalist groups.
What we see in Russia, is, therefore, not Socialism but its antithesis. It can become Socialism only when the people expropriate the expropriators now in power, to use a Marxian expression. Thus, the socialist masses of Russia find themselves with respect to the problem of control of the means of production in the same situation which confronts the workers in capitalist countries. The fact that in Russia the expropriating expropriators call themselves Communists makes not the slightest difference. The difference between Soviet Russia and Western Europe is that the workers in the advanced capitalist countries are already strong enough to have limited to some extent the dictatorship of capital and to have altered power relationships to a point which makes the socialization of important economic monopolies a matter of the political victory of the workers in the near future, whereas in Russia the means of production are highly concentrated in one hand and their ownership protected by an absolutist state machine, while the workers, being divided, without organization of their own, without a free press or free elections, are completely shorn of any means of resistance.
Similar to the monopoly of property ownership in Russia is the monopoly of education. This is one of the instruments whereby the dictatorship seeks to buttress its power.
Still worse is the complete destruction of intellectual freedom, which strikes even the mass of Communists. True education, genuine participation in the knowledge of our time, is impossible without intellectual liberty.
The situation has been characterized by Otto Bauer as follows:
"Russia is a state of unlimited absolutism, much more than it was under the Czar. The government is all-powerful. No meetings are permitted except those agreeable to the government, no newspapers except those of the government party. Members of all other organizations are at best jailed, at worst shot. The control of the police over the population has attained a measure which can hardly be imagined in free countries. It is a regime of absolutist dictatorship, of a power quite without any limitation, which holds every human being completely in its hand but is itself subject to no control.
"Such a system of dictatorship destroys all intellectual liberty. In Russia there is only one form of science — that officially authorized by the government. He who entertains scientific views other than those prescribed officially is thrown out to starve and must, indeed, consider himself fortunate if he is not exiled or shot."
Nowhere are the mass of the people and the mass of Communists themselves deprived of opportunity to learn what is raking place in the world of science, to explore the truth and to know it, as in Soviet Russia. In capitalist countries the masses of the people have a hundred times more opportunity for real knowledge, not mere drilled and regimented Communist talk; a hundred times more opportunity to break the educational monopoly of the ruling class than in the land of so-called "proletarian" dictatorship. Only Fascist Italy may be compared with Russia in this respect. It is precisely in respect to education that the Russian people have yet to win what the people of the West have long been enjoying. This cannot be attained so long as the dictatorship continues to rule. On this point, too, the road of Bolshevism leads not to Socialism but away from it.
But are not the Russians superior to us at least in the domain of planned economy? Are we not at the present moment experiencing in capitalist countries the calamitous consequence of capitalist anarchy? Is not the planned economy of the Soviet Union to be hailed in favorable contrast to this situation?
One might be inclined to think so. A planned economy should certainly be possible where the general apparatus of production is concentrated in one hand. Nor does such an economy require the socialist self-determination of the people in the labor process. Even the state economy of a despot may be planfully regulated. All human social life which does not spring from mere natural causes requires planned regulation if it is to proceed to some purpose. Any industrial plant is evidence of that.
The Bolsheviks, too, tried to introduce such regulation from the beginning of their rule. But they met with no success, and could not have been successful because of the peculiar conditions under which they came into power.
When the Socialists come into power in the democratic countries they will have already secured the support of the majority of the population for their program. They will be able to support themselves upon great mass organizations of trained comrades, political, trade union, cooperative and educational. Their leaders will have already gained wide experience in the organization and administration of developed social enterprises, as well as much practical and not merely theoretical knowledge in economic affairs as representatives in communal legislatures and administrative organs, as state officials and ministers and, on the other hand, as leaders of workers' cooperatives and labor banks, as managers of great newspapers, etc. They are acquiring also the ever-increasing support of intellectuals now engaged in managing private enterprises.
All this will make it possible for Social Democracy to introduce planning and system in production when we acquire power and will enable us to master the production process. Its economic knowledge and sense of responsibility with regard to the masses will keep it from striking out upon adventurist policies and will guard it at every step against ill-conceived actions.
The conditions prerequisite for any such development were non-existent in Russia when the Bolsheviks seized power. Czarism had suppressed every opportunity for the participation of all classes in government, and subjected the regulation of all social life to rigidly centralized, bureaucratic, police and military institutions.
When these institutions collapsed in 1917, in the midst of military defeat, all classes of the population found themselves free but without any experience and knowledge in self-government. Under a democratic regime they undoubtedly would have acquired quickly the necessary experience and ability. At first, the democracy showed itself quite helpless, however. The Bolsheviks utilized this period to destroy democracy and to erect a new despotism by means of a rigidly centralized conspiratory organization, with the support of a group of workers, soldiers and sailors in Petrograd. Bolshevism obtained the support of these elements by making unmeasured promises, prompted to a large extent by demagogy but certainly also by underestimate of the difficulties of the task.
No less than the masses were the leaders unable to develop under czarist conditions the necessary ability without which victory over capitalism is impossible. The Bolsheviks were well schooled in fighting the police and in winning the plaudits of poor, ignorant devils. But they lacked any knowledge and experience in the administration of government and economic institutions. They had studied Marx theoretically, but in a talmudic sense, for they lacked any opportunity to study more intimately the economic phenomena with which Marx dealt.
With quite inadequate human material, themselves entirely unprepared, the Bolsheviks ventured to turn topsy-turvy a country of 170,000,000 inhabitants and to establish in Russia an order of production the prerequisite for which were absent, nay, for which there were no models even in the much higher developed West.
Even the greatest of geniuses would have found this too large a task. Visionaries like Upton Sinclair, Bernard Shaw, Henri Barbusse and others may be impressed by the daring of the Bolsheviks, but this daring emanates from complete ignorance.
The Bolsheviks were forced to the attempt to create something resembling a planned economy. Planned economy presupposes, however, something more than the drawing up of a plan-nothing is easier. It presupposes also its systematic and consistent execution. Only when this is attained can we speak of planned economy. This has never been achieved in Soviet Russia, however, and could not have been achieved, for the conditions prerequisite to the success of any plan were non-existent. Failure was all the more certain because each succeeding plan was embarked upon in haste and without preparation. As soon as one plan would be put into operation its shortcomings would become apparent and it was found necessary to change it and, finally, to abandon it. Naturally, the decision to cast it overboard would be delayed as long as possible, as long as there appeared to be any prospect of making any progress along the particular road in question. It would be abandoned only when it was no longer. possible to cling to it. Thereupon, the Bolsheviks would rush into another plan.
This constant change of plans in Soviet Russia, is, therefore, no mere accident. It is the inevitable consequence of the original sin of Bolshevism, which imagined that it could regenerate the world by means of a coup d'etat carried out with the assistance of a few thousand soldiers and sailors.
What we see in Russia is not planned economy but an economy of plans, an unbroken succession of plans, which characterizes Bolshevism from its very beginning. These projects are frequently colossal, but each is only begun, none is carried calmly to a conclusion, being constantly modified, abridged, altered, until it is found inadequate and "improved" by a new one or abandoned. What we find in Soviet Russia is ordre, contre-ordre, desordre, or arrangement, rearrangement, disarrangement.
But has not the dictatorship in Russia some real successes to its credit? Has it not industrialized and collectivized the nation's economy and "altered thereby, not only the face of the Soviet Union but of the world, thus rendering the greatest service of our time so far as the future is concerned?"
The construction program carried out under Stalin's reign is by no means unprecedented. Other rulers before Stalin who commanded the services of large masses of docile, helpless labor whom they sacrificed mercilessly to their plans were able, even in primitive times, to build huge edifices which roused astonishment, edifices the construction of which was brought about by tremendous sacrifices and expenditures of human lives, and which did not, however, move the "leader" in the least. The builders of the pyramids have been cited in this connection. The Roman Caesars and the Rajahs of India astonished the world with similar remarkable performances by using the labor of millions of cheap slaves over whom they held sway. Nor did they confine themselves to luxury construction. The Roman Caesars built not only great amphitheatres and bath-houses but also very fine roads connecting all parts of the great empire, water systems, etc. Many persons who admire these accomplishments fail to realize that because they rested on slave labor they led ultimately to the destruction of the state.
The Pharaohs of Egypt and the despots of Babylonia and India built not only great palaces, temples, mausoleums but also huge works, dams, reservoirs and canals without which agriculture could not endure. Marx characterized these works as part of the material foundations of the despotism of those regions ("Capital" Volksausgabe, p.453). He did not regard them as the material basis of a socialist society.
The fact that the present rulers of the Kremlin follow these examples of Asiatic despots does not signify, a fundamental change in the face of the world. Neither the brutality of the rulers nor the enslavement of the ruled is altered by these achievements. It is not technical and economic innovations but the human aspects of a society that matters. Many see only the construction of plants and collectives, but fail to perceive the rise of a new aristocracy which controls these new means of production and exploits them for its own purposes. Above this aristocracy stands the nobility of members of the Communist Party, and still higher in power is the aristocracy of the political police, holding in its power the officialdom and party members.
But all of these elements of the aristocracy, each endowed with special privileges, are subject to the rule of the highest central authority in the state, headed for the moment by Stalin. He gives and he takes away. He raises those who please him to positions of influence and power and he hurls those who displease him into oblivion. The old nobility obtained its land, after the system of ownership had been definitely established, neither from princes nor from the Czar, and from time to time it ventured to exhibit discontent. In a modern dictatorial state this is impossible. Its aristocracy consists entirely of servile elements, lacking all character and independence.
The privileged elements themselves are divided into various categories. This is no mere accident. The rule of a minority over the great majority requires for its preservation not only bloody terror but the splitting up of the population, in accordance with the old principle: divide and rule. For this reason, the Communist dictatorship instills into the workers the feeling that they are a ruling class favored by the regime as against the peasants, while within the working class itself elements and individuals of particularly ignoble servility are treated as pets and accorded special privileges. In this manner there has been set up, after the destruction of the old classes, a new differentiation of classes, a hierarchy headed by a Pope.
The fruit of the Bolshevist regime has been the establishment of a new class rule. The Bolsheviks, to be sure, have destroyed the -old classes, but new classes, new elements of aristocracy have arisen under their regime. They have arisen of necessity from the conditions of the Bolshevist dictatorship, although they may be invisible at first glance because they had not been foreseen in Bolshevist ideology and phraseology. But they are there, nevertheless. They are striking ever deeper root and are becoming in ever increasing measure the determining factor in the actions and aspirations of Bolshevism. Its ultimate Communist objective is becoming more and more a matter of decoration, a mere memory or allurement for Socialist idealists whom the dictator seeks to utilize for his own purposes.
The old Bolsheviks who took their Communism seriously and who have ventured to oppose the new aristocratic institutions have either been rendered helpless by the beneficiaries of the system or have been jailed, exiled and in many cases executed. Others who have escaped being corrupted by the system, have retired in disgust to finish their lives in sulky silence. A large number of the old Bolsheviks, however, have succumbed to the dictator and have degenerated from the level of revolutionists to the low estate of servile courtiers. Erstwhile Communists who preached the doctrine of equality have become the parvenus of a climbing parry hierarchy, archbishops and cardinals of the pope of the Bolshevist church. The new generation of Communists however, consists, for the most part, of conscienceless careerists, whose Communism is limited to mere lip service and whose activities are devoted solely to the attainment of power and the privileges it implies. Acquisition and retention of these privileges is their only aim.
Not the abolition of all classes but the substitution of new classes for the old has been the outcome of the Bolshevist revolution of 1917, as it was of the French Revolution of 1789. Then, too, the revolutionists had failed to note that in abolishing the differentiations of classes they had failed to create a system of universal freedom, equality and fraternity, but had merely facilitated the rise of a new class society.
7. Communism, Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism in Germany
The old idealists among the dictators in the Kremlin have either died out or been removed from office. The men who are at the helm now have derived from the labor movement in which they formerly participated as part of the Social-Democratic movement, only the desire to utilize the working class for their own ends, which in practice are no longer the liberation of the laboring masses but the strengthening of their own absolutism. The working classes not alone of Russia but of the entire world have become their cannon fodder. In the eyes of the Kremlin rulers the workers of all countries must play the part of wooden soldiers marching to their command. This is really the task of the Comintern.
In this effort to establish their dictatorship over the working class of the world and to drag it into adventures regardless of consequences, the Moscow dictators encounter the determined resistance of Social Democracy. Therefore, they regard Social Democracy as their most dangerous enemy. The rage of the Communists is directed principally not against foreign capitalists but against the workers organized into Socialist and Labor parties and free trade unions.
The rulers of Russia seem to be able to get along with foreign capitalists and capitalist governments and to do business with them. For the capitalists are not in the least embarrassed by methods of dictatorship, nor by the omnipotence of a political police, nor by the exploitation of the masses for the purpose of "primitive accumulation." Many of them would greatly appreciate having a similar regime in their own countries.
The fundamental aim of the Communists of every country is not the destruction of capitalism but the destruction of democracy and of the political and economic organizations of the workers.
By their policies they always pave the way for reaction. The capitalists no longer fear Soviet Russia.
The entire Five-Year Plan was conceived in the expectation that the capitalists of the entire world would vie with one another, in supplying Soviet Russia with improved means of production, and in this the Communists were not deceived. And the capitalists fear Soviet Russia as little politically as they do economically. Mussolini owes his success in no small measure to the Communists. They made possible the triumph of Hitler in Germany. In many countries the reactionaries owed a number of their seats in Parliament to the Communists. Everywhere from the moment the war ended the Communists have been doing the greatest harm to the cause of the working class by bringing discord into its ranks.
The Bolshevist methods were everywhere eagerly studied and followed not only by the Communists .but by reactionaries wherever the democratic wing of the working class was too weak to exert a decisive political influence.
Authority and power for Social Democracy came with the military collapse of the Central Empires. Wherever it was at the helm it acted with the same humanity and magnanimity as did the revolutions of 1830, 1848, 1871, 1905 and 1917. But owing to the war and the shortsightedness of the victors, the wholly socialist or semi-socialist governments in Germany and other countries were faced with problems which could not be solved overnight and the solution of which could not bring immediate prosperity. This activated speedily the bitter enmity of the disintegrating groups, with the result that the exercise of authority by either capitalist or anticapitalist elements became a matter of mere chance. The outcome was a regime of dictatorship, of conscript labor, of terror, of arbitrary rule by a privileged minority.
The causes of the collapse of the German Republic may be summarized as follow

1. The consequences of the Versailles Peace Treaty.
2. The inner weakness of the republic, born out of military defeat.
3. The economic crisis.

The great French Revolution came under conditions of peace. The humiliation and exhaustion of military defeat did not rest upon the French people. They were able to devote all their fighting strength to the Revolution.
The German Revolution of 1918 came at the end of a war which had brought the German people to a condition of unprecedented exhaustion. Added to this was another important factor. The French Revolution soon found itself at war with the monarchs of Europe, whom it finally vanquished. However internationalist we may be in our sentiments, we are compelled to admit that the national enthusiasm of a people who repels the attacks of foreign adversaries constitutes a tremendous propelling force. A revolution is greatly strengthened when it combines revolutionary with national enthusiasm. This was a factor that proved of great help to the Bolsheviks in 1920, who drew new power from the war with Poland. It strengthened greatly the French Revolution after 1792. Of course, in the end democracy is the loser under such an awakening of the warlike spirit, even when the revolutionists emerge as the victors.
In contrast to the French Revolution of 1789, the German Revolution of 1918 sprang from the horrible misery of the war. In addition, it was compelled to accept a most humiliating and crushing peace. The monarchy unleashed and lost the war, but the monarchists deserted before the conclusion of peace. The ignominious and ruinous peace treaty of Versailles was the consequence of the policy of Kaiserist Germany. But the signing of the inevitable peace treaty the monarchists left to the republicans.
In the eyes of those politically illiterate masses who like to look for scapegoats rather than for the causes of events, the Social Democrats appeared to be most responsible for the peace treaty.
The force of national sentiment which had so strengthened the revolutionary elan of the First French republic had the opposite effect on the fate of the first German Republic. The democratic victor states did everything they could through the conditions of peace which they had imposed upon the German Reich to rouse the national feeling of the German people against the republic which had been compelled to accept those conditions. Nor did the victor states permit the German people to return to a state of calm. This was done through the imposition of insane reparations payments, which, in turn, provoked the inflation and Ruhr occupation, both equally ruinous in their political and economic effects. The consequence was a repetition of the situation created by the war. A German reactionary cabinet permitted itself to be drawn into the Ruhr conflict, unleashed the inflation, thereby bringing Germany to the abyss, and deserted at the decisive moment, leaving it to the Socialists to clean up the mess piled up by the Messrs. Cuno and his confreres.
Hardly had the worst consequences of reparations been overcome and the reparations themselves eliminated, than the world crisis made its appearance, affecting all countries, but none so severely as Germany. This was the decisive factor in Hitler's victory.
In July 1932, only a minority of the 20,000,000 wage earners in Germany were fully employed; 7½ million were without jobs and 5 million were on part-time work.
No less eloquent are the statistics of the trade unions, showing unemployment of only 8.6 per cent among the organized workers in 1928, the last year before the crisis, as compared with 46.1 per cent in March 1933. In 1928, part-time workers comprised only 5.7 per cent. In March, 1933, the figure was 23.4 per cent. In February it was 24.1 per cent. Fully employed in the critical month of March were only 30 per cent of the organized workers!
Add to the situation the split between the Social Democrats and Communists, which, in the final analysis, was also a consequence of the World War, and assumed particularly large dimensions in Germany, and we are compelled to admit that in no other country have the workers since the war, and to a large extent as a consequence of the war, been subjected to so much suffering. Nowhere have the workers been compelled to pass through so many struggles, economic, social and political, nowhere have the workers faced such a corroding ordeal as the workers of the German Republic.
The energy generated by German Social Democracy during the period of 1918-1933 has not been fully appreciated abroad for the simple reason that conditions in Germany expressed themselves only occasionally in explosive form, as during the Kapp putsch, whereas the general situation was one of a prolonged stubborn contest for power, without dramatic sensations, and failed, therefore, to find proper appraisal.
When one considers the circumstances under which the German Republic came into being and the persistent sapping of the strength of its best defenders — the German workers who had already reached a high point of exhaustion as the Kaiser-Reich collapsed and the revolution began in November, 1918 — there need be little wonder of the triumph of the counter revolution, as it triumphed finally after 1789 and 1848. The remarkable thing is that this triumph came only after 15 years of struggle.
It may be argued that even if this be true, there still remains the fact that Social Democracy had pursued a mistaken policy and thus opened the door to the calamity.
It is quite true that "the policy of the lesser evil" of supporting Hindenburg for the presidency against Hitler and tolerating the quasi-dictatorial government of Bruening as the last available bulwark against Nazism, did not avert the ultimate greater evil and that it proved a failure.
In the situation which developed under the historic circumstances outlined above there were but two roads open for the Social Democrats-the road of either the lesser evil or that of the Communists, which would have led inevitably to the greater evil. The Social Democratic policy at least made possible the averting for a time of the greater evil, the Hitler dictatorship. Had the Socialists followed the policy of the Communists, the Socialists themselves would have put Hitler in the saddle.
Had a revolution appeared to have the slightest chance of success, the Communists would have surely tried to make one. Unfortunately, the masses can succumb to such a state of paralysis as to render even the most optimistic hopeless and incapable of action.
Coalition with the most democratic of the bourgeois parties became necessary in order to save the German Republic and its hard won social acquisitions. On the other hand, as a result of the economic breakdown caused by the war and its consequences, and of the peace treaty, circumstances favoring the formation of a purely Socialist government would have made its task difficult because of the lack of the support of a Socialist majority. Conditions became utterly unbearable with the setting in of the crisis, which sharpened the social contradictions to such an extent that it was impossible for the Socialists to remain in the government any longer. In March 1930, the Social Democratic cabinet of Hermann Mueller resigned. Its place was taken by the Bruening cabinet.
The Socialist ministers without a Socialist majority naturally could not terminate the crisis. Those who expected the Socialists to do that should have at least granted them the necessary power by providing them with a parliamentary majority. To be sure, even then socialization measures would have merely mitigated but would not have entirely overcome the crisis. This could not be done by one country alone. There were, however, certain manifestations of the crisis that could have been avoided by a Social Democratic government supported by a Social Democratic majority, and the masses of the people thereby saved a tremendous lot of suffering. But under the division of power then existing among the parties and classes in Germany the Social Democrats were not even in a position to beat off successfully the attack of the possessing classes upon labor. The purely bourgeois cabinets made the evil even worse.
Large numbers of persons, especially among the middle classes and including a great many workers, saw and felt the misery of the times very keenly. They rebelled against it. But in their ignorance they failed to see that the root of the calamity lay in the powerlessness of the Social Democracy, that it was necessary to help it achieve power. They lost faith in all the major political parties who took part in the parliamentary struggle and who sought to assert themselves in parliament and through parliament. They looked for the cause of the misery not in the balance of power of the political parties, not in the unfitness of the bourgeois parties, not in the lack of power of the Social Democracy, but in the parliamentary system itself. They were vexed with the image of political and social relationships as reflected in parliament. And they thought they could improve the image by breaking the mirror.
The crisis, which in England happened to strike the Labor Party and in America the Republican Party because at that time both were steering the ship of state, was utilized in some of the constitutionally governed countries of continental Europe in attacking parliament itself. Since parliaments exist, since the political life of the countries is concentrated in them, they must be blamed for all evils and their destruction made a prerequisite to something better.
But what shall be put in their place?
There were in Germany three anti-parliamentary parties: the Communists, the German Nationalists and the National Socialists. Of these three parties the National Socialist Party was the weakest at the time the crisis set in. In 1928, it had but 12 seats in the Reichstag, the Communists had 54 and the German Nationalists 73. Since then the Communists had grown rather slowly, while the German Nationalists had lost rapidly. The latter had been unable to compete with the National Socialists, who for the most part drew their support from the same elements of the population. The superiority of the Nazis arose partly from the fact that although both the German Nationalists and the Communists were theoretically anti-parliamentary they had in practice associated themselves very closely with the parliamentary struggle in Germany, which contradictory conduct could not be laid at the door of the Nazis, inasmuch as prior to 1930 they were numerically very weak in the Reichstag.
All the other parties, whether in the government or in the opposition, had become, in a parliamentary sense, worn out with time. This could not be said of the National Socialist party. It had all the lustre and allurement of newness. The National Socialist party was young and for that reason appeared to many superficial observers also handsome.
And as soon as the circumstances described above began to exert their influence there was added a new factor: success. Here, too, the old adage may be quoted: "Nothing succeeds like success." In order that the masses may believe in the dictator, he must be successful. He must dispense power and must be believed to be capable of heroic deeds. The Communists, too, advocated a dictatorship; they too promised the starving masses heaps of gold. But their rise in Germany never assumed such proportions as to make one hope for immediate practical results. And the starving wanted bread immediately. They would not and could not wait. The German Nationalists, on the other hand, were not only sworn enemies of the workers to begin with, but by the time of the crisis had lost much of their ground. From the days of the Constituent Assembly in Weimar up to 1924 they had been making steady progress. In 1924 they had 111 seats in the Reichstag. Then they began to lose. In 1928 their representation was reduced to 73. With the elections of 1930 their retrogression continued, the number of their mandates dropping to 41, while that of the National Socialists jumped from 12 to 107. It then became clear as to whom was to be given the confidence of those masses who expected their salvation to come from above.
This is what made the National Socialists irresistible — not their program, for they have not as yet shown any ability to work out a consistent program.
German Social Democracy succumbed to the counter-revolution only after 15 years of most stubborn resistance, in the course of which it was called upon to fight an overwhelming combination of enemies, ranging from the Communists to the People's Party, the German Nationalists and the National Socialists.
In pointing out the injustice of condemning the German Social Democrats for their failure to put up a forcible resistance against Hitler, I wish to emphasize that the condemnation of the Social Democracy on this point would have to apply with equal force to the German Communist Party whose voting strength was greater than that of any Communist Party in other countries.
At times this party was almost as strong as the Social Democratic Party (In November 1932 the Communists had almost six million votes, while the Social Democrats rolled up slightly over seven million). In view of such tremendous mass support it is useless to look for individuals to put the blame on; one must search for deeper causes. How did it happen that thirteen million workers permitted themselves to be disenfranchised without offering violent resistance?
This attitude of the workers appears all the more strange when one contrasts it with the fighting spirit they displayed in a previous attempt to impose a dictatorship upon the German nation, namely the Kapp putsch of 1920. The occupation of Berlin by counter-revolutionary troops was answered with a general strike of such sweep and power that in a few days the counter-revolutionary uprising was crushed.
Quite different was the conduct of the same parties and even of the same leaders in 1933. This fact alone suggests we must look for the cause of the difference in conduct then and now not in personalities but in the dissimilarity of circumstances.
This dissimilarity is not difficult to establish. Those who took part in the Kapp rebellion of 1920 soon came to realize that they were an unsupported, isolated group in the nation. They wanted to bring back to power the very same class that had brought bloody war and terrible defeat upon the German people. In 1920 this fact had not yet been forgotten, hence the united will to fight back, which found its most powerful expression in the great general strike.
The Communists at that time felt so strong that they attempted to organize armed uprisings in the Ruhr and Vogt regions, which of course quickly came to naught. The Social Democracy on the other hand could truthfully claim that in its effort to ward off dictatorship it had the support of the great majority of the German people.
The situation in 1933 was quite different. The Hitlerites came to the fore not as the result of a coup by a few regiments, but by steadily winning the favor of the masses. A mere handful before 1928, they very suddenly developed such vote-gathering powers that already in June of 1932 they became the strongest party, with 230 mandates. And their rise continued unabated, as the elections of March 5, 1933 showed, resulting in almost half of the entire vote being cast for the Nazis alone, and more than half for the Nazis and their political allies combined.
This points to a profound change in the frame of mind of the people generally. And such a change is bound to affect all parties; no party can escape its influence unless the party is only a small sect whose power does not spring from the large masses.
Victories scored by counter-revolutionists during a period of civil strife signify not the beginning but the conclusion of a counter-revolutionary process. These victories are accounted for by the change of attitude of the broad masses of the people who have lost faith in the revolution or have even turned against it because they have been disappointed or believe their interests to have been endangered by it. Thus in 1848 many of the bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and peasant elements in Germany and France, who during the months of February and March were revolutionists, later turned counter-revolutionist. It was this change of heart that encouraged the reactionary elements, who in February and March had been in hiding or had fled from the revolution, to appeal to arms once more.
At first glance it may seem as though the work of "one lieutenant and ten men" was sufficient, in July 1932, to destroy the entire German Social Democracy. In reality however, it was the irresistible advance of National Socialist ideas and sentiments among the masses of the people that rendered ineffective the fighting spirit of the class-conscious workers, both Communist and Social Democratic.
Whence came that irresistibility? Did it come from the superiority of the National Socialist program, the higher moral concepts and intelligence of its champions, the greater courage and spirit of self-sacrifice of their followers? In all of these things the "Marxists" leave the National Socialists far behind.
Whoever wishes to learn the reason for the irresistible upsurge of National Socialist sentiment need only observe the date when it began in Germany. Before the advent of the economic crisis the National Socialists were an insignificant group. In the Reichstag elections of 1928 they won only 12 seats. Two years later, however, they succeeded in increasing the number of their mandates almost tenfold, the number of seats captured jumping from 12 to 107. It was precisely these two years that saw the beginning of the world crisis. And this crisis everywhere brought revolutionary developments in its train. Revolutionary not in the sense that they favored the success of the socialist-revolutionary parties, but in the sense that they rendered desperate the existence of large masses of persons or citizens who blamed the governments or political parties in power for the misery brought about by the crisis and believed that they could save themselves by overthrowing those governments and parties. He who promised to bring about the overthrow most speedily and successfully was the right man for those masses, the man through whom they hoped to achieve their salvation, no matter what his program. The manner of reasoning of the rank and file of the population, wholly without political or economic experience and stirred to political action only by the war and its consequences, was militaristic, not economic.
Some Socialists regret the fact that the Social Democrats used no force in the November days of 1918 and believe that had they done so they would have now been in the saddle and their enemies destroyed.
It is a dangerous illusion to think that a movement rooted in a given set of circumstances can be destroyed by violence. In studying the problem we must first of all make a distinction between the methods of arbitrary murder and plunder pursued with respect to opponents and the methods of legitimate suppression of crime and brutal violence in political contests. There is yet another distinction that must be made. On the one hand we have the methods of the Nazis which assure every one of their party members a well paying government position, whether he is fit for it or not, and make every political or personal opponent of the Nazis ineligible for any kind of public service. On the other hand, we have the methods pursued by the Social Democrats, who seek to break the monopoly of the opponents of democracy in the control of the state and see to it that the laws of the state are applied to the enemies of democracy as strictly as they are to other elements of the population.
If we are to consider the carrying out of this part of the Social Democratic program alone, then German Social Democracy has earned no reproach whatever. It did its utmost in this respect. If it did not accomplish more the fault lies in no small measure with those who make this reproach, above all the Communists who voted in the Reichstag for the amnesty of murderers and incendiaries known to be opponents of democracy.
If, on the other hand, the Social Democracy is to be reproached for failing to institute a reign of terror against its political opponents after November 1918, then those who make the reproach should remember that such a reign of terror would have affected first of all the Communists, whose Bolshevist colleagues in Russia were applying the most brutal methods against the Russian Socialists, and who sought to bring about the same thing in Germany. Attempts to bring about the establishment of an anti-Bolshevist reign of terror under a Social Democratic regime were not lacking, as was evidenced by the assassination of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, an assassination perpetrated by a group of reactionary army officers. But the Social Democrats must consider it fortunate that the Social Democratic government of that time repelled with horror every effort of the frenzied army officers to force it to adopt terroristic measures.
What would have happened if the German Social Democrats had permitted themselves to be driven to the setting up of a reign of terror against their political opponents?
What Germany needed most, after its military defeat and in the face of the hostility of the entire world, were moral conquests instead of military ones. The German people had to gain the good will of the world and end its isolation. Now, moral conquests, which alone are lasting and productive of good results, cannot be made by brutal force. Since the German Social Democracy had established a democratic republic and was determined to administer it on a democratic basis, it tried to do its best to win back Germany's former moral and economic standing in the world.
Had the German Social Democrats established a system of terror in 1918 and 1919 it would have meant the isolation of Germany and the stagnation of her economic life, as now brought about by Hitler. The frightful blame which rests upon the brown shirts now would have been placed upon the German Social Democrats then and with a vehemence ten times as strong. It would have flung the German people and above all its working class into an abyss of misery and filth and would have morally destroyed Social Democracy.
To have paid for the short-lived illusion of absolute authority, based on blood and murder, with the price of such a frightful finale would have been too much.
He who thinks that the working class can be assured, prosperity and freedom by organizing economic life on a militaristic basis is wrong. No less erroneous is it to strive for a dictatorship for the purpose of crushing the enemy and establishing the working class in a privileged position in the state and society while reducing the rest of the population to the position of pariahs as a means of ultimately establishing socialist equality for all. But most objectionable of all would be to attempt to build a regime of humanity upon the basis of brutality, seeing that without the former no true Socialist commonwealth can exist. For this commonwealth must represent the realization of the slogan of the French Revolution, which was "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."
8. Socialism and Democracy
The interests of the working class require democracy no less than Socialism. Labor can attain to the former sooner than to the latter, for other laboring classes, such as artisans and peasants, as well as many intellectuals, are equally interested in the development of democracy.
In the struggle for democracy and its immediate class interests, necessitating social reforms, the working class is lifted from primitive barbarism to higher forms. The consequences of this struggle creates a more fertile ground upon which the enlightened working classes, acting in organized masses, continues to develop its powers by means of free action and movement, thus lifting its development to the highest possible degree and rendering itself capable of pursuing successfully the struggle for the final aims of Socialism.
One may easily admit that democratic methods are not applicable in the struggle against totalitarianism, in fact impossible, and yet make the aim of our fight the restoration of democracy. Much confusion has resulted from the fact that in the discussion of this question the two points of view have not been clearly defined. Some take the position that democracy, having failed where fascism is in power, must fail also where fascism has been kept from power.
It is self-evident that we cannot fight with the weapons of democracy where such weapons are not available. Some now make the distinction between democratic and revolutionary methods. Some of us are pictured as insisting upon democratic methods, others upon revolutionary methods. The latter are characterized as implying insurrection and the general strike. But this juxtaposition of democratic methods and others is no less erroneous than that of reformists and revolutionists. Our aim is Socialist and revolutionary. Whether we fight for it reformistically or in a revolutionary manner depends not upon our thinking processes, but assumes practical significance only as we view our tactics from the standpoint of a given situation in the state, society and existing class relationships, which we cannot determine at will. This is what determines whether we resort to democratic or "revolutionary" methods of action.
Under the conditions that prevailed in the countries of Continental Europe during the last century, conditions that were characterized by the absence of that measure of democracy essential to the freedom of movement required by the masses, it was the democrats who were the revolutionists, for they were the ones who fought for democracy with revolutionary methods, because none other were available. At that time the conceptions of democrats and revolutionists were identical.
But it would be ridiculous, with this past period in mind, to consider ourselves obliged to preach a violent political overthrow in countries where democratic institutions have been attained.
There are people who believe that even under a democratic order Labor should utilize the methods of "revolution," insurrection, the general strike, because, in their opinion, such methods will lead to Socialism more quickly than the casting of ballots, and that in the final analysis the opponents of Socialism in the democratic states will yield only to insurrection and the general strike.
In rejecting democracy, they go so far as to believe that a Socialist minority could achieve power by force in a democratic state. And, finally, they assert that Socialists cannot hope to attain an electoral majority even in countries where Labor represents the greatest number as long as the opponents of Socialism retain control over the economic and intellectual instruments of power.
To this we reply: To be sure, the power at the disposal of the opponents of Socialism, the economic dependence of the workers, the influence of the press and the stealing of elections can be brought into play even under democracy. But a Socialist Party which is unable, regardless of these obstacles, to obtain the support of a majority of the people in a democracy will find it even more impossible to obtain such a majority by the use of armed force or the general strike. For in the latter instance the weapons at the disposal of the opponents of Socialism will prove even more effective than under the form of democratic struggle. The road of force and violence requires even greater sacrifices from Labor than the road of democracy.
On the other hand, the use of force and violence requires the support of a much greater majority of the people if Socialism is to win. A majority of 51 per cent will not suffice.
In a situation in which force is pitted against force, the power at the disposal of the ruling classes comes much more into play than under democracy. To master that power we would require the support of an overwhelming majority of the people. The superiority of numbers is the sole decisive weapon Labor can command in any great decisive contest. To be sure, many workers have not infrequently achieved victory on the barricades or in general strikes, but only when they fought for objectives which were dear not only to the workers but to the great mass of the people as a whole, roused to enthusiasm and support.
Such objectives were always democratic objectives. Yet this alone did not suffice to assure victory in the contest of arms. Such victory required also the weakening of the support accorded to the existing regime by its army and bureaucracy.
Such was the case in the July revolution in Paris (1830), as well as in the uprisings of February and March 1848, and, later, in the general strike in Russia of 1905 and in Germany in 1920.
Both insurrection and general strike have proven quite useless, however, when they were utilized by a minority of the people in efforts to overthrow not a morally bankrupt government but a government supported by a majority of the people. The forcible overthrow of a government possessing not only the power of the state but also the support of a majority of the people is unthinkable. And, as we have already pointed out, any attempt to assert ourselves successfully by force requires not only majority but an overwhelming majority.
Moreover, the road of force requires greater sacrifices than the road of democracy. It is much easier to prevail upon a person to vote Socialist than it is to move him to give up his job or his life.
Force is, therefore, not a method by which a working class parry can advance in a democracy or achieve results that cannot be achieved by democratic methods. Democracy is the shortest, surest and least costly road to Socialism, just as it is the best instrument for the development of the political and social prerequisites for Socialism. Democracy and Socialism are inextricably entwined.
The big exploiters are not unconscious of this fact. Hence, their hatred of democracy and their efforts to destroy it wherever they can. These efforts gain in intensity and violence in proportions as democracy has facilitated the rise of Labor. Is this any reason for Socialists to minimize the value of democracy? What for the moment may appear as the weakness of democracy is in reality the weakness of the working classes. A working class which has not the power to defend democracy, until such time as the relationship of class forces change, is certainly least capable to assert itself against the exploiters by force. Where democracy has been lost, it is the first and most important task of Socialists and Labor to regain it.
It would be nonsensical to contend that Social Democrats are obliged to use democratic methods under all circumstances. Such an obligation we can assume only with respect to those who themselves use only democratic methods. Acts of violence cannot be repelled by ballots, newspaper articles or mass meetings. Nevertheless, in circumstances when Social Democrats are compelled to meet violence with violence they must seek first and foremast to win the support of the majority. This is the essential prerequisite of victory, regardless of whether they apply democratic or other methods. And, furthermore, they must never lose cognizance of the fact that democracy remains always the most valuable instrument Labor can possess.
Where democracy does not exist the most urgent task before Labor and Social Democracy is to establish political freedom. It is quite erroneous to say that the workers must first emancipate themselves economically, and that only then will "true" democracy be possible.
It makes no difference whether or not we choose to regard a strong representative assembly of the people, elected by universal equal suffrage, and coupled with freedom of the press, speech and organization, as mere "formal" democracy. The fact is that without such institutions the workers cannot emancipate themselves economically. To be sure, democratic institutions will change their character when society will be organized on a Socialist basis. Today they are essential instruments of struggle for the working class. Under Socialism they will be only instruments of free social administration. And this will constitute the difference between present day democracy and the democracy of a Socialist society. The fashionable conceptions of "true" and "formal" democracy are mere abstractions.
Some may say that the example of Soviet Russia refutes my conception of democracy. It is argued that in Soviet Russia a proletarian minority succeeded in seizing power by force, something which it could never have attained by democratic methods.
Those who present this argument forget that Czarism was not overthrown by a Bolshevist minority against the majority of the people. Czarism fell because its chief instrument of power — the army — was wrecked and shattered by the arm of German militarism and, in part, turned against the Czar. Moreover, the entire Russian population joined the rebellious troops. Unfortunately, Russia did not possess any class schooled in self-government. As a result, anarchy overwhelmed the country. Amidst this anarchy Bolshevism established itself with the instruments of a new army and bureaucracy.
It would be futile to expect a repetition of anything like this. The state to which these developments gave birth is a distinctly abnormal one. The continued existence of the Bolshevist state is by no means an argument against democracy in a modern state.
There remains now one more argument against democracy to be disposed of — that democracy necessarily implies a weak government. Only the application of extreme pressure will suffice to tackle the monopolists of finance, industry and land ownership, we are told.
This is quite true. The capitalist masters in some countries will stop at nothing to maintain themselves when they are confronted with the danger of expropriation. But this does not necessarily involve the use of military force, the raising of a private army by capital.
Only in politically backward country does fascism constitute a promising instrument for the exploiters. In the democratic states of Western Europe and in the Anglo-Saxon world the capitalists resort more to economic than military instruments, just as the working class in the great decisive political struggles of the past few decades fought with economic rather than military weapons. The methods pursued by the capitalists are essentially the same as those used by the workers: the strike, the crippling of production. The workers fight by stopping work; the capitalists fight by stopping the circulation of capital. By this means they have succeeded in overthrowing governments which they regard as inimical to their interests.
Only a government which does not stand in superstitious awe before the rights of private property can tackle the resistance of the monopolists of capital. Such a government must not hesitate to confiscate any enterprise which practices passive resistance, and operate it for the social interest.
It is simply impossible from the point of view of sound economics to change the whole of capitalist economy into a Socialist economy at one stroke. There will be many capitalist enterprises which it will be necessary for the time being to continue as such.
And, indeed, it will be to the advantage of the Socialist state to have these enterprises continue functioning without disturbance. But the owners of these enterprises will continue to operate them only when they feel secure against confiscation, and when we assure those of them whose enterprises are to be ultimately socialized a proper measure of compensation.
This very prospect of compensation should move the capitalists in question to refrain from passive resistance, economic sabotage and interference with the new regime. As regards capitalists who will sabotage under any circumstances we need have no compunction about seizing their property in socially necessary means of production. The threat of confiscation will be a most effective weapon to compel their cooperation with the Socialist government.
Economic as well as political considerations will make two things necessary: to reassure those capitalists willing to cooperate against direct confiscation of their property, and the determination to confiscate ruthlessly without compensation any enterprise hostile to the new economy and refusing to adapt itself to it.
But nothing is more erroneous than the assumption that only a dictatorship can show such determination. To be sure, no Socialist governments and certainly no coalition governments have ever been in a position to act with such determination. But it was not democracy that hindered them, but the fact that they did not command a united Socialist majority.
Only such a majority can have not only the courage and will but also the power to break ruthlessly the resistance of the capitalists. Such a majority, as we have already pointed out, can be attained, however, only in democracy.
Considered, therefore, from every point of view democracy facilitates, and in no way retards the emancipation of the working class.
9. The Road to Power
Lately we hear people talking of a dictatorship of the proletariat as a political order under which the working class wields absolute power, without taking into account the level of its development and intelligence. Unlike democracy, we are told, such an order would be a dependable instrument for the building of Socialism, regardless of the element of maturity of the working class.
We need not dwell here on the possibility of establishing such an order in countries where the working class is too weak to establish or defend democracy. I have already emphasized that the working class requires much less power, intelligence and independence to attain democracy and political power through democracy than would be necessary for the establishment and maintenance of its own dictatorship over all other classes of society.
But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that such a dictatorship could be established after the working class will have crushed all its opponents. What would be the consequence?
A dictatorship is a state in which authority is centered in one will, in which any criticism of this will is treated as a major crime. A real dictatorship of the proletariat presupposes, therefore, the existence of a united will in Labor's ranks. Many often assume as a self-evident fact that the working class constitutes a united, homogeneous mass, to be pitted against a homogeneous "reactionary mass." The truth is, however, that the working class is not a self-evident phenomenon or a uniform, homogeneous, "totalitarian" mass, to use a German expression.
It is naive to conceive of the working class as synonymous with the mass of the poor and needy. Marx regarded the proletariat as consisting only of those workers who do not own or control the means of production they must use in order to live, and who are consequently obliged to sell their labor power. Strictly speaking, the small peasantry or farmers, artisans and petty tradesmen do not belong to the category of the working class, however needy they may be. These elements perceive their salvation not in a Socialist society, but in the rise of prices on commodities they offer for sale. Their ideal is to become bigger peasants or farmers, artisans and businessmen in the society based on private ownership.
On the other hand, the workers themselves are divided into two categories, neither of which own any means of production. But only under certain specific historical circumstances can they find buyers for their labor power. This becomes possible on a large scale only where capital has acquired control of industry and requires wage labor. Before this development becomes a fact the masses of the propertyless have but one recourse — to beg or steal. This type of proletarian is not necessary to the basis of society. On the contrary, they are an unnecessary burden. They live only upon the alms of the propertied classes or by plundering them. Such workers cannot grasp the ideal of a new, better social order, much less are they fit to fight for it. To the extent to which they are dependent upon the good will of the higher classes they become cringing and sycophantic. Individuals among them, those of stronger character, turn to violent resentment and become criminals. Such elements are easily disposed of by the state.
Due to particularly favorable circumstances, proletarians of this type attained to great political power in ancient Rome, which after prolonged struggles had established a democratic constitution, but a great portion of whose citizens had become impoverished as a result of continued civil wars. Under this condition the urban proletariat obtained the power in the state, but not knowing how to utilize it found nothing better to do than to sell its votes to those who paid the most in bread and circuses, or to sell itself as hired mercenaries to successful and ambitious military leaders.
It was this political and military assistance on the part of the proletariat that made possible the dictatorship of a single individual in Rome, which led to the rise of Caesarism and its development into a state form.
Marx differentiated sharply between the proletariat of this type, which he termed the LUMPENPROLETARIAT, and the wage earning proletariat. It was the latter type that he regarded as capable of developing, in the process of many struggles and through long experience, the requisite power and ability to emancipate itself, and thus move society forward to higher forms.
Hundreds of years of struggle were required before such consciousness became possible, and even then it was confined at the beginning to a small elite, which, perceiving its social power and significance, placed before itself the aim of achieving a fundamental social change.
Under certain circumstances this elite can develop rapidly in numbers, but behind this elite and the LUMPENPROLETARIAT there remains a mass which Marx well characterized as the "undeveloped figure" of the proletariat. Economically this mass performs the functions of the wage-earning proletariat, but intellectually and culturally it is not much above the level of the LUMPENPROLETARIAT. It no longer begs for alms but for work, perceiving frequently in the capitalist who employs it not the exploiter who lives upon its labor but the master, the philanthropist, upon whose good will the wage earner subsists. Occasionally, these proletarians begin to glean vaguely the real character of the situation, which in turn, leads them to manifestations of resistance. But they are not capable of continuous, systematic struggle.
Only occasionally are they moved to outburst of despair, which is followed immediately by dejection and surrender. Higher aims than those of the moment are beyond the scope of the undeveloped proletariat.
This general analysis of the character and composition of the proletariat suffices to reveal its division into three big groups, each with its own mode o f thinking, its own capacity for struggle, its own aims and methods.
The development of capitalist industry makes possible the growth of the advanced portion of the proletariat over the other two — the undeveloped proletarians as well as the Lumpenproletariat. The World War and the world economic crisis, however, have stimulated the numbers of the last two mentioned groups at the expense not only of the proletarian elite but also of the artisan and small peasant elements. Moreover, the boundaries between the various elements are not sharply drawn. They overlap and vary with the changes in the political and economic situation.
Within the laboring classes themselves there are numerous differentiations of thinking and fighting capacity. These differentiations are partly local in character: city, town and country. There are also the differences of luxury cities and industrial cities: in the first, we find more corrupt servile, reactionary elements among the workers than in the second. Added to these local differentiations are many differentiations of occupation, some of which facilitate the work of education, enlightenment, organization and struggle. Others make it much more difficult. Women have always been more difficult to organize than men. The same is true of workers in isolated occupations, as compared with those in large-scale production.
Thus we have another division in the working class running parallel with the differentiations of the developed and undeveloped workers: that of the organized and unorganized workers. But the two differentiations are not identical. The elite of the workers have never sought to keep aloof from their undeveloped comrades. On the contrary, the elements comprising the labor elite have never tired in their efforts to elevate the whole of the working class. On the other hand, we have seen organizations of workers in certain crafts who, having managed to win very substantial advantages for themselves, have assumed a special character and have sought to exclude outsiders in the manner characteristic of any aristocracy. The unorganized workers are left to their fate. In such instances we find another clear break in the uniformity of the working class. This particular division continued for decades in England, for example, after the collapse of the First International.
In the continental countries of Europe we have had no such situation. In these countries the workers had been compelled to wage a bitter struggle for democracy before they could begin to organize. In that struggle as in all others, the labor elite took the lead. But its aim was one in which the entire working class, as well as the peasants and artisans, were interested, while the intensity of the political movement served to checkmate any manifestations of selfish group-thinking in the trade unions.
In the course of capitalist development, Labor continued to increase, while the workers who owned their means of production increased but slowly and, in some instances, actually decreased. As a general rule, the more developed elements of the working class showed the greatest proportion of increase, i.e. those who influence the less developed elements and stimulate the growth of general class-consciousness as against the influence of craft and other differentiations.
Yet, there are tendencies operating in the opposite direction and giving rise to ever new differentiations in the ranks of Labor.
In addition to those already mentioned there is the category of salaried employees, the so-called white collar workers. Salaried employees as compared with wage earners, perform functions of a mainly capitalist character. The productive capitalist is not merely an exploiter; he performs an important economic function. He organizes and directs enterprises, purchases and assembles the means of production and takes care of the disposal of commodities. The element of profit does not emanate from these activities, but depends rather upon the amount of capital, not upon the quantity of labor, furnished by the capitalist. Frequently he has to work much harder in a smaller enterprise than in a big one. But what constitutes the prerequisite of profit is the realization of the tasks of productive capital. This realization is not dependent, however upon the personalities embodied in capitalism. The functions of productive capital are merely transferred to the shoulders of hired help. Such help is required as soon as any given enterprise reaches a certain advanced stage of development.
Where an enterprise develops to the size of a shareholding undertaking, the entire activity of the capitalist is transferred into the hands of hired forces, i.e. of wage earners and other employees, who perform capitalist functions. These elements emanate from circles closer socially to the capitalist, command a higher culture and education and enjoy a bourgeois standard of living.
For a long time this category of employees were considered part of the middle class, enjoying the "protection" of capital as against the workers and the flattery of bourgeois economists and politicians. The more rapid the growth of capitalist enterprises, the wider has been the development of this new middle class, which grew more rapidly in numbers as compared with the old middle class than did the wage earning section of the working class.
More recently, however, it has become apparent that the standard of living of this new middle class has been declining in proportion as higher education has ceased to be a monopoly of a small minority. The more extensive the administrative and commercial apparatus of an enterprise, the more pronounced becomes its hierarchical differentiation. Only a few leading elements reach the top, i.e. the elements who rise above the mass of the commercial and administrative employees. The latter move socially ever closer to the status of simple "wage earners," while those above them develop increasingly the psychology of "masters," to a degree even more pronounced than that displayed by the capitalist. That is why the directors and superintendents of plants and factories are so well paid.
Thus does the majority of the "new middle class" approach ever closer the status of the real working class, enlarging and augmenting its ranks. But within the working class it forms again a separate category, with its own peculiar psychology, standard of living and capacity for struggle, reflecting, in turn, a different approach and policy.
As soon as Labor attains a certain degree of intellectual, political and economic power it begins to exercise an increasing measure of influence upon some sections of the old middle class. Small peasants or farmers, and petty tradesmen find their immediate interests divided between labor and the capitalist class. Their allegiance vacillates at given moments between the two, depending upon the historic circumstances. The farmer and middle class elements in question cannot be characterized as dependable allies of labor, to which circumstance must be ascribed the fact that political development since the French Revolution has been alternating constantly between revolution and counter-revolution, progress and reaction.
Nevertheless, Labor has been acquiring the confidence of these elements in increasing measure, in proportion as these elements themselves have moved closer economically to the status of the working class and as the working class itself has gained in power and influence. On the other hand, the more these elements draw closer to Labor, the more complex and varied does the composition of the working class itself become.
Another differentiation to be mentioned is one that has acquired great significance in recent years: the differentiation between employed and unemployed workers.
Marx showed that chronic unemployment of part of the working class was an inevitable phenomenon of capitalism. But however painful unemployment was in the past for the individual worker, it was, as a rule, a temporary affliction. Since the World War, however, and particularly since the world economic crisis of 1929 unemployment has become a permanent curse for increasing masses of workers. This carries with it the development of a psychology among many workers unfortunately akin to that of the Roman proletariat who, as we have already pointed out, constituted one of the principal roots of the dictatorship of the Caesars.
There are many other differentiations within the respective component parts of the working class, upon which we will not dwell here but examples of which may be cited by anyone familiar with the problem.
But the differentiations already mentioned are the most important and make it impossible for the working class to form a solid, homogeneous mass capable, without the intervention of any other forces, of presenting a united mode of thinking and action. What we see, instead, is a heterogeneous mass, composed of variegated and uneven elements. It was the insight of a Marx that discerned the common interests which, in the long run, must animate all these elements. But the realization of their common tasks and interests depends in turn, upon intensive education and enlightenment.
The development of economic and political class struggles does, indeed, facilitate a closer approach of the various elements of the working class to one another, but this process is being constantly interfered with and vitiated by the influx of ever new elements into the body of the working class. Nor does this influx always imply a strengthening of Labor. It invariably complicates its policy and makes its formulation and application more difficult.
The influence of working class policy gains in strength only in proportion as Labor becomes more united and presents a common front, by which we mean united in more than one sense. It must avoid, first, a zigzag course which leads it into contradictory and unsuccessful experiments. Secondly, it must seek to overcome the many differentiations of craft and local interests, of tradition and capacity for struggle responsible for the temporary or more lasting differentiations in the thinking and aspirations of the respective elements comprising the working class and those closest to it.
Real unity of these various heterogeneous elements can be accomplished only by putting forward great noble objectives and high social ideals. The necessity of such a policy makes the formation of a Labor Party inevitable, sooner or later, wherever a Socialist Parry has not already preceded it. Any person who subscribes to the ideals of such a party is to be welcomed into its ranks, but the working class, which can develop its potential powers only as united force, remains the most important, the decisive element of such a party.
As regards the importance of democracy we cannot overemphasize the fact that higher social perceptions can be attained only through freedom and research. Only under such conditions, through free discussion, can the welfare of Labor be advanced.
10. The "United Front"
Right now one hears louder than ever the demand for a united front which before 1914 existed in almost every country of the world, with the exception of Russia, and which gave the laboring masses a chance to assert themselves successfully. The split in the ranks of the working class was responsible for the fact that the revolutions of 1918 and 1919 in central Europe did not accomplish the maximum results possible at that rime.
On the surface, it appears that the question of the united front involves an effort to bring together two opposing working class tendencies for joint action. Some will ask, "What does this have to do with the character of the dictatorship in Russia? And is not the cessation of fratricidal struggle in the ranks of the working class an urgent necessity?" The workers are fully aware that their power and the achievement of their aim depend upon their unity. They reject anything that threatens unity. They dislike any theoretical conflict which impedes unity of action.
On the other hand, we must not permit the memory of old conflicts no longer of any immediate significance, to interfere with any process of unification. I, too, recall many splits and conflicts of tendencies in which the followers of the respective camps developed a passionate hatred for each other. And yet, these very same people learned to regard each other later as valuable comrades and friends when the causes of the conflicts had been removed and it had become possible again to work together for common aims through common methods."
I am fully aware of all this, and yet I have no enthusiasm for the efforts being made for the establishment of a "united front."
The very term "united front" gives cause for doubt. Why not "unity" with the Communists? Because the Communists do not want unity. What is proposed is not unity of Social Democratic and Communist workers, under which both would pursue common aims through democratic methods, free discussions, and majority rule, respected by the minority.
To be sure, both the Communist and Socialist Parties regard themselves as working class organizations. Both consist in their overwhelming majority of workers. Many of these work side by side in the same plants and factories. They share the same sufferings and face a common opposition. And yet there are profound differences between them. It is not merely a question of belonging to the same class, but also of the organizations from which the individual workers take their slogans and directions. In the Social Democracy these slogans and directions are given democratically. Its organizations are governed by democracy, as are those of the entire free labor movement. This is not true of all organizations in which workers are active. This is not true, for example, of organizations whose workers are politically regimented and wear a uniform. Such workers follow a military discipline. They receive their slogans from above and they must obey them without question. The attitude of a military organization toward the Social Democracy depends not upon whether such organization is composed of workers but upon the stand taken with respect to the Socialist Party by its high command.
What is true, with certain variations of a military organization is inevitably true also of the Communists. Unlike the Social Democracy, they are not organized democratically, but in military fashion. They do not choose their own leaders and slogans, but receive them from their high command-in the last instance, from Moscow. The Communists of all countries are its disciplined praetorian guard. Communism has become for the present rulers of Russia what pan-Slavism was for the czars, with the exception that the Communists of today are much more obedient to the dictators in Moscow than the pan-Slavists were to the czars. Fundamentally, the united front would signify, therefore, not the cooperation of workers acting freely within the labor movement but the cooperation of the democratic Socialist and labor organizations of the world with the strongest dictatorship of the world.
A united front concluded by Social Democrats and Communists in a given country will always be limited by the fact that it rests not upon common interests and ideas but springs from a special situation, which may change overnight. This is especially true because faithlessness and treachery are part of the substance of dictatorship, that only he becomes a dictator who does not hesitate to destroy his erstwhile comrades whenever they become obstacles in the way of his determination to achieve absolute power.
The militarized, highly concentrated economy of the Soviet state certainly differs radically from the economy of private capitalism, but it is no less removed from the objective of the emancipation of the working class from all exploitation and enslavement. Before the rise of the Communist dictatorship in Russia, the bourgeois critics of Socialism used to characterize the objective of Socialists as a penitentiary or as a barrack economy. Social Democrats, in turn, repudiated this emphatically. We could not imagine that some day there would arise a group of Socialists claiming to be Marxists who would actually bring such a penitentiary or barrack economy into life, and that instead of being laughed out of court or condemned they would arouse the admiration and approval of some Socialists.
The bloody terror of the regime is hailed by such Socialists as the realization of the Socialist ideal, because, forsooth, there is no place for capitalists in the barrack of Soviet economy, they being permitted to enter it only occasionally as visitors. As such they are invited and received in most friendly manner, guided about with great politeness and asked to express their appreciation of the good food served in the penitentiary.
Those who realize all these facts will perceive that there is, indeed, very little in common between the new ruling aristocracy in Soviet Russia and the free labor movement, very little, indeed, of that community of interests essential for a successful united front between Socialists and Communists.
They differ far too widely in methods and character. Any prolonged cooperation between the two would be based upon a lie. For the Soviet regime, this would be quite acceptable, for falsehood is its outstanding characteristic. The Soviet regime has continuously, without interruption, paraded its slave economy as the emancipation of toiling humanity, but Social Democracy cannot flourish upon a lie, not even when the lie may appear to it to be the truth. Any such situation would lead inevitably to the decline of Socialism and its ultimate destruction.
From the very beginning of their activities, the Bolsheviks have been an element of dissension and weakening in the labor movement. This was inevitable. Such is the effect of dictatorship. The harmonious cooperation of different tendencies in the labor movement is possible only on the basis of democracy. At various times, in devious ways and under manifold guises, the Communists have tried to worm their way into the labor movement; and always with the one objective of either subjecting the organizations of labor to the will of Moscow or of splitting them.
Unity of the working class — yes! But unity only in a free labor movement! No fake unity — no "unity" which leads only to discord and dissension.
Some say we are absolutely opposed to the Communist parties outside but not to the dictatorship in Russia. In reality the reverse is true: cooperation with those Communist groups who are freeing themselves from their dependence on the present rulers of Russia for the purpose of attaining some common goal is possible. This has been proved by experience more than once. On the other hand, those Communists who are ruled by Moscow are implacably hostile to the Socialist parties not because of their Communist objectives, which are shared also by the Communist opposition, but because what the Moscow rulers want is not independently thinking allies but obedient tools.
The enemy that makes impossible any united front resides in Moscow. The conflict between Moscow and the Socialist and Labor parties is not based upon a misunderstanding but is deeply rooted in their respective natures and is just as insoluble as is the contradiction between dictatorship and democracy. One of the most outstanding characteristics of Communists was always their contempt of democracy.
This contempt, adopted by many a Socialist influenced by them, has since brought forth rotten fruit. It weakened the working class, gave permanency to the split which since 1918 has been brought about by the Communists in so many countries, and became one of the primary causes of the many painful defeats democracy has sustained in recent years.
But the consequences of these defeats were so serious for the Soviet State that it saw itself compelled to appeal for help to democracy outside Russia. Its watchword to Communists of all countries was now to take a stand for democracy and for this purpose to form a United Front with the Social Democrats they had hitherto so furiously attacked.
So far as this goes, the situation can be greeted with rejoicing. But our joy is somewhat dampened by the fact that this change of the Communists is not one of principle but is merely one of tactical manoeuvering. They defend democracy only where they are in the opposition. They annihilate it and practice the most cruel subjugation of any form of popular freedom where they are in power.
The ousting of democracy by violent despotism in various great neighbor states of Russia constitutes a serious menace to it. Everyone of these despotisms, according to its nature, is pressing for military expansion. Two of them, the German and Japanese, threaten Russia from the East and from the West. But by itself the Russian Army could hardly withstand the pressure from two sides.
Russia needs allies, but they can be found only in the democratic states of the West. There, too, exist elements hostile to democracy. They are Russia's enemies as well. It is not only in the strength of these countries, but in the strength of their democracy, that the Soviet Republic is most keenly interested. This explains the Soviets' sudden interest in democracy, but only there — not at home.
Their aid to democracy must be welcomed by every democratic party. But this help may not be relied on too strongly. It emanates from the foreign policy of the present rulers of Russia and is in direct contrast to its home policy.
More recently Stalin has been obliged to make concessions to democratic ideas. He has granted the Russian people a new Soviet Constitution in place of the previous one, which he himself pronounces "the best democracy in the world."
If any democracy deserves the description of a purely formal one, it is the latest constitution of Stalin. It granted no attribute of real democracy, no freedom of movement for the masses, no liberty of speech, of the press, of meeting, of organizations. Its parliament, not freely elected, is a mere assenting parrot.
How the life of the state really functions under this constitution is clearly demonstrated by the famous political trials which have since been staged by the Soviet Government. But they did not merely disclose the fake character of present day Russian "democracy." The fact that they continue to find their victims in the governing groups demonstrates that the country is in the throes of a vast unrest reaching up into the ruling circles — an unrest which, in spite of most ferocious repression, does not cease.
We may yet expect terrific surprises. Whatever aspect these may bear, they promise to stir the masses into motion and thus to bring real concessions to democracy. If democracy should succeed in deed — actually rather than formally — in gaining ascendancy in Russia, the workers of all lands would be the gainers. Owing to the larger masses which would swell their ranks and the lessened obstacles in their way, their advance would proceed with heightened power and speed.
Then a new era would dawn upon mankind. Its advent depends chiefly on the Communists of Russia. But today it is the duty of Socialists, in all parleys and discussions with Communists, to point out this fact to them, and to explain to them how largely the further advance of the working class parties of the world depends on the granting of real democracy in Russia, what harm they do to Socialism and Labor so long as they deny it in that country.
The reestablishment of a united Socialist and Labor movement is impossible so long as Russia is ruled by a dictatorship seeking to subordinate to itself the working class of the whole world.
A united front will come of itself as soon as this dictatorship has vanished, for without it the Communist parties will be deprived of their life-force. They will speedily disintegrate as soon as slogans and money cease to come from Russia and the iron and golden ring that is holding them together has been removed.
Not the collapse of the dictatorship in Russia but its further continuance in power constitutes the gravest menace and causes the greatest damage to the struggle of the modern working class for liberation.

Original Format





Kautsky, Karl, “Social Democracy vs. Communism,” Interrogating Marx(ism), accessed January 29, 2023,