On the II. International
Died January 18 (31), 1911
Published: Rabochaya Gazeta, No. 3, February 8 (21), 1911.
Lenin, collected works, Volume 11, pages 92 - 95
published on occasion of the 100th death-day of Paul Singer - 2011
On February 5, this year, the German Social-Democratic Party buried Paul Singer, one of its oldest leaders. The entire working-class population of Berlin, many hundreds of thousands of people, responded to the call of the Party and marched in the funeral procession; they came to honour the memory of a man who had devoted all his strength and all his life to the cause of the emancipation of the working class. Berlin, with its three-million population, had never seen such a multitude—at least a million people marched in or watched the procession. Never had any of the mighty of this world been honoured with such a funeral. Tens of thousands of soldiers can be ordered to line the streets during the funeral of some monarch or a general famous for the slaughter of external and internal enemies; but if the working people in their millions were not attached heart and soul to their leader, to the cause of the revolutionary struggle of these very masses against the oppression of the government and the bourgeoisie, it would be impossible to rouse the population of a huge city.
Paul Singer came of bourgeois stock, from a family of merchants, and for quite a long time was a wealthy manufacturer. At the beginning of his political career he was associated with the bourgeois democrats. But, unlike the bulk of bourgeois democrats and liberals, who very soon forget their love of liberty out of fear of the successes of the labour movement, Singer was an ardent and sincere democrat, fearless and consistent to the end. He was not caught up by the vacillations, cowardice and treachery of the bourgeois democrats which aroused in him only a feeling of repulsion and strengthened his conviction that only the party of the revolutionary working class is capable of pursuing the great struggle for liberty to its consummation.
In the sixties of the past century, when the cowardly German liberal bourgeoisie turned its back on the growing revolution in their country, was bargaining with the government of the landowners and becoming reconciled to the unlimited power of the monarchy, Singer turned resolutely toward socialism. In 1870, when the entire bourgeoisie was intoxicated by the victories over France, and when the broad masses of the population fell under the spell of the vile, misanthropic, “liberal” propaganda of nationalism and chauvinism, Singer signed a protest against the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine from France. In 1878, when the bourgeoisie helped Bismarck, that reactionary, landlords’ (“Junkers’”, as the Germans say) minister, to promulgate the Anti-Socialist Law, to dissolve the workers’ unions, ban working-class newspapers, and shower persecution upon the class-conscious proletariat, Singer finally joined the Social-Democratic Party.
Since then the history of Singer’s life is inseparably bound up with that of the German Social-Democratic Party. He devoted himself heart and soul to the difficult task of building up the revolutionary organisation. He gave the Party all his energy, all his wealth, all his remarkable abilities as an organiser, all his talent as a practical worker and leader. Singer was one of those few, we might say, one of the extremely rare cases of socialists of bourgeois origin whom the long history of liberalism, the history of the treachery, cowardice, deals with the government, and sycophancy of the bourgeois politicians does not enervate and corrupt; but it steels and converts them into stalwart revolutionaries. There are few such socialists of bourgeois origin, and the proletariat should trust only these rare people, people who have been tested in the course of many years of struggle, if it desires to forge for itself a working-class party capable of overthrowing contemporary bourgeois slavery. Singer was a ruthless enemy of opportunism in the ranks of the German workers’ party, and to the end of his days remained undeviatingly faithful to the uncompromising policy of revolutionary Social-Democracy.
Singer was not a theoretician, or a writer, or a brilliant orator. He was first and foremost a practical organiser of the illegal party during the period of the Anti-Socialist Law, and a member of the Berlin Municipal Council and, after the repeal of that law, of the Reichstag. And this practical organiser, who spent most of his time in minor, everyday, technical parliamentary and every kind of “executive” activity was great for the reason that he did not make a fetish of details, he did not yield to the quite usual and quite philistine tendency to keep out of any sharp struggle on questions of principle, allegedly for the sake of this “executive” or “positive” activity. On the contrary, every time a question arose concerning the fundamental nature of the revolutionary party of the working class, its ultimate aims, blocs (alliances) with the bourgeoisie, concessions to monarchism, etc., Singer, who devoted all his life to this practical activity, was always to be found at the head of the staunchest and most resolute fighters against every manifestation of opportunism. During the operation of the Anti-Socialist Law, Singer together with Engels, Liebknecht and Bebel was in the fight on two fronts: against the “young”, the semi-anarchists, who repudiated the parliamentary struggle, and against the moderate “legalists at any price”. In later years, Singer fought just as resolutely against the revisionists.
He earned the hatred of the bourgeoisie, and it followed him to the grave. Singer’s bourgeois enemies (the German liberals and our Cadets) now point out with malicious glee that his death means the passing away of one of the last representatives of the “heroic” period of German Social-Democracy, that is to say, the period when its leaders were imbued with a strong, fresh, unqualified faith in revolution and championed a principled revolutionary policy. According to these liberals, the rising generation of leaders, those who are coming to replace Singer, are moderate, punctilious “revisionists”, men of modest pretensions and petty calculations. It is true that the growth of the workers’ party often attracts many opportunists to its ranks. It is also true that in our day socialists of bourgeois origin most often bring to the proletariat their timidity, narrow-mindedness and love of phrase-mongering rather than firmness of revolutionary convictions. But the rejoicing of the enemies is premature! The masses of workers in Germany, as well as in other countries, are becoming welded ever more strongly into an army of revolution, and this army will deploy its forces in the not far distant future—for the revolution is gaining momentum both in Germany and in other countries.
The old revolutionary leaders are passing away; but the young army of the revolutionary proletariat is growing and gaining strength.