On the "Spartacus League"
ON THE GERMAN "SPARTACUS LEAGUE"
(also called "SPARTACISTS" or "INTERNATIONALE group")
collection of quotations
on occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the German Spartacus League ("Spartacists")
1st of January 1916 - 1st of January 2016
arranged by Wolfgang Eggers
The international split of the entire working-class movement is now quite evident (the Second and the Third Internationals). The fact that armed struggle and civil war is now raging between the two trends is also evident (...) the fight the Scheidemanns and Noskes have conducted in conjunction with the bourgeoisie against the Spartacists in Germany. (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 22, page 193)
(...) can Grimm be unaware of the fact (...) that at Kienthal representatives of the Internationale group—the group to which Liebknecht belongs—fought against convocation of the I.S.B. and insisted on a break with it?
(...) has Grimm forgotten (...) That both Left groups in Germany, the I.S.D. (International Socialists of Germany) and the Internationale (or Spartacus group to which Liebknecht belongs), have forthrightly rejected the social-pacifism of the Centre?
Grimm criticises the majority proposal precisely from the Centrist standpoint, because the majority wants to move nearer to Liebknecht’s standpoint.
To side with Liebknecht implies: (1) attacking the main enemy in your own country; (2) exposing the social-patriots of your own country and (with your permission, Comrade Grimm!) not merely of other countries; combating them, and not uniting with them—as you do—against, the Left Radicals; (3) openly criticising and exposing the weaknesses not only of the social-patriots, but also of the social-pacifists and Centrists of your own country; (4) utilising the parliamentary tribune to summon the proletariat to revolutionary struggle, urging it to turn its weapons against its enemy; (5) circulating illegal literature and organising illegal meetings; (6) organising proletarian demonstrations such as, for in stance, the demonstration on Potsdam Square in Berlin at which Liebknecht was arrested; (7) calling on the workers in the war industries to strike, as the Internationale group has done through its illegal leaflets; (8) openly demonstrating the need for complete “regeneration” of the present par ties, which confine themselves to reformist activity; acting as Liebknecht acted; (9) unreservedly rejecting defence of the fatherland in an imperialist war; (10) fighting reformism and opportunism within the Social-Democratic movement all along the line; (11) just as relentlessly combating the trade union leaders, who in all countries, particularly Germany, England and Switzerland, are the vanguard of social-patriotism and opportunism, etc.
Clearly, from this point of view much in the majority draft is subject to criticism. But that can be discussed only in a separate article. Here it is necessary to emphasise that the majority at any rate proposes certain steps in this direction, while Grimm attacks the majority not from the Left, but from the Right, not from Liebknecht’s positions, but from those of the Centre.
And isn’t it an international fact that the bourgeoisie itself, and its governments in the warring countries, primarily England and Germany, are persecuting only supporters of Liebknecht and are tolerating men of the Centre?
Forward, to the Left, even if this means the resignation of certain social-patriot leaders! This, in a few words, is the political point and purpose of the majority proposals.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 23, page 279-280)
We are firmly convinced that this filthy froth on the surface of the world labour movement will be soon swept away by the waves of revolution.
In Germany there is already a seething unrest of the proletarian masses, who contributed so much to humanity and socialism by their persistent, unyielding, sustained organisational work during the long decades of European “calm”, from 1871 to 1914. The future of German socialism is represented not by the traitors, the Scheidemanns, Legiens, Davids and Co., nor by the vacillating and spineless politicians, Haase, Kautsky and their ilk, who have been enfeebled by the routine of the period of “peace”.
The future belongs to the trend that has given us Karl Liebknecht, created the Spartacus group, has carried on its propaganda in the Bremen Arbeiterpolitik.
The objective circumstances of the imperialist war make it certain that the revolution will not be limited to the first stage of the Russian revolution, that the revolution will not be limited to Russia.
The German proletariat is the most trustworthy, the most reliable ally of the Russian and the world proletarian revolution.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 23, page 372-373)
The distinctive feature is its complete break with both social-chauvinism and “Centrism”, and its gallant revolutionary struggle against its own imperialist government and its own imperialist bourgeoisie. Its principle is: “Our chief enemy is at home.” It wages a ruthless struggle against honeyed social-pacifist phrases (a social-pacifist is a socialist in word and a bourgeois pacifist in deed; bourgeois pacifists dream of an everlasting peace without the overthrow of the yoke and domination of capital) and against all subterfuges employed to deny the possibility, or the appropriateness, or the timeliness of a proletarian revolutionary struggle and of a proletarian socialist revolution in connection with the present war.
The most outstanding representative of this trend in Germany is the Spartacus group or the Internationale group, to which Karl Liebknecht belongs. Karl Liebknecht is a most celebrated representative of this trend and of the new, and genuine, proletarian International.
Karl Liebknecht called upon the workers and soldiers of Germany to turn their guns against their own government. Karl Liebknecht did that openly from the rostrum of parliament (the Reichstag). He then went to a demonstration in Potsdamer Platz, one of the largest public squares in Berlin, with illegally printed leaflets proclaiming the slogan “Down with the Government!” He was arrested and sentenced to hard labour . He is now serving his term in a German convict prison, like hundreds, if not thousands, of other true German socialists who have been imprisoned for their anti-war activities.
Karl Liebknecht in his speeches and letters mercilessly attacked not only his own Plekhanovs and Potresovs (Scheidemanns, Legiens, Davids and Co.), but also his own Centrists, his own Chkheidzes and Tseretelis (Kautsky, Haase, Ledebour and Co.).
Karl Liebknecht and his friend Otto Rühle, two out of one hundred and ten deputies, violated discipline, destroyed the “unity” with the “Centre” and the chauvinists, and went against all of them . Liebknecht alone represents socialism, the proletarian cause, the proletarian revolution. All the rest of German Social-Democracy, to quote the apt words of Rosa Luxemburg (also a member and one of the leaders of the Spartacus group), is a “stinking corpse”.
Another group of true internationalists in Germany is that of the Bremen paper Arbeiterpolitik.
The “Kautskyites”, the “Centre”, are revolutionaries in word and reformists in deed, they are internationalists in word and accomplices of the social-chauvinists in deed.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 24, page 77-78)
It is a fact that we Pravdists, and we alone, demand that the German socialists should unconditionally and immediately break with the German Plekhanovs, i.e., the Scheidemanns, and with the German ’Centre’, i.e., those vacillating people who cannot make up their minds to break away, definitely, on principle, from the Scheidemanns.
It is a fact that we Pravdists, and we alone, stand for unity with only two German socialist groups (the Spartacus and the Arbeiterpolitik) which support the policy of Karl Liebknecht, i.e., the policy of destroying the inner unity of Germany. The policy of Karl Liebknecht, a policy of deeds, not words, is to destroy the ’inner unity’ of the capitalists and workers in Germany.
Clearly realising that the German capitalists and their Wilhelm are imperialists, i.e., brigands, Karl Liebknecht as far back as September 1915 sent a letter to the Zimmerwald Conference, which was not published, because Liebknecht was then still a legal person. But everyone who was at Zimmerwald knew about this letter.
The letter called, not for a civil truce, but for a civil war.
That was how our comrade-in-idea, Karl Liebknecht, preached ’inner unity’ in Germany. That is what we ourselves have preached in the German translation of our Pravdist pamphlet Socialism and War
Karl Liebknecht not only spoke this way, he acted this way. From the platform of the German parliament, he called upon the German soldiers to turn their guns against their own German Government. Then he joined a street demonstration with revolutionary proclamations reading: ’Down with the Government.’
That is how Karl Liebknecht, an adherent of our Pravdist policy, has been ’endeavouring to preserve the inner unity of Germany’. That is why he has been thrown into a convict prison.
And Karl Liebknecht is denounced as a Judas and a traitor not only by the entire press of the German capitalists, but by all the papers of the German Plekhanovs, who accuse him more or less directly of treason or anarchism.
In all countries the capitalists are spewing out a torrent of lies, slander, abuse and accusations of treason against those socialists who are behaving the way Karl Liebknecht is behaving in Germany, or the way the Pravdists are behaving in Russia, i.e., who are destroying the ’inner unity’ between the workers and the capitalists, the workers and the Plekhanovs, the workers and the ’Centrists’ in every country, and who are creating unity among the workers of all countries in order to put an end to the predatory, murderous imperialist war, in order to rid mankind of the yoke of capitalism.
In Germany the capitalists are hounding Karl Liebknecht and his friends as traitors. In Germany, too, our comrade Karl Liebknecht has been repeatedly threatened with mob violence. This has been mentioned even by that German Plekhanov, the social-chauvinist David. In Russia the capitalists hound the Pravdists as traitors. In Britain the capitalists hound the Scotch public school-teacher MacLean as a traitor. He, too, has been thrown into a convict prison for the same kind of crime, for the same kind of ’treason’ as that which Karl Liebknecht and we Pravdists are guilty of.
Down with the ’inner unity’ of the workers and capitalists in all countries, for this ’unity’ has condemned and is still condemning humanity to the horrors of the predatory imperialist war waged in the interests of the capitalists!
Long live unity among those socialists and workers in all countries who not only sympathise with Karl Liebknecht in words, but actually pursue the Liehknecht policy against their own capitalists!
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 24, page 131 - 133)
Yesterday evening we received a telegram from our Stockholm correspondent:
“Haase, Longuet attending conference. ‘Spartacus’ refused.”
The name "Spartacus" or “Internationale” is used in Germany for the group to which Karl Liebknecht belongs. There has been a great hullabaloo lately, raised by people who are particularly interested in upsetting the apple-cart, about the Liebknecht group having supposedly united with the Kautskyites in a new Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany. As a matter of fact, the Liebknecht group is only affiliated to the Kautskyites as an independent organisation and merely entered into a temporary and qualified bloc against the social-chauvinists.
The telegram quoted above is one more confirmation of this fact, When things came to a practical point and a clear and definite answer had to be given immediately on the question of making common cause with Scheidemann and his agents, the alliance between Liebknecht’s group and the Kautsky group crumbled at once.
In taking upon itself the initiative in bringing about such a cleavage, our Party has already started to rally the elements of a Third International. The fact that our tactics coincide with those of the Liebknecht group is no accident. It is a step towards the inchoate Third International.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 24, page 324 - 325)
The German Spartacus group in their "theses" published in German in 1915 advanced the proposition that in an era of imperialism national wars are impossible.[ 71] This is obviously a wrong assertion, for imperialism makes the oppression of nations more acute and, as a result, national revolts and national wars (attempts to draw a line of demarcation between revolts and wars are doomed to failure) are not only possible and probable but absolutely inevitable.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 26, page 161)
The fierce discipline of the German army and navy failed to prevent action by the opposition elements. The revolutionary sailors of the German navy, fully aware that their attempt was doomed, boldly went to their death in order to waken the spirit of revolt still dormant among the people. The Spartacus group is intensifying its revolutionary propaganda. The name of Liebknecht, a tireless fighter for proletarian ideals, is daily gaining in popularity in Germany.
We believe in the revolution in the West. We know that it is inevitable, but it cannot, of course, be made to order.
We cannot decree a revolution, but we can help it along. We shall conduct organised fraternisation in the trenches and help the peoples of the West to start an invincible socialist revolution.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 26, page 291 - 292)
When the proletarians of Europe are accused of treachery, Kautsky writes, it is an accusation levelled at unknown persons.
You are mistaken, Mr. Kautsky! Look in the mirror and you will see those “unknown persons” against whom this accusation is levelled. Kautsky assumes an air of naïveté and pretends not to understand who levelled the accusation, and its meaning. In reality, however, Kautsky knows perfectly well that the accusation has been and is being levelled by the German “Lefts”, by the Spartacists, by Liebknecht and his friends. This accusation expresses a clear appreciation of the fact that the German proletariat betrayed the Russian (and world) revolution when it strangled Finland, the Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia. This accusation is levelled primarily and above all, not against the masses, who are always downtrodden, but against those leaders who, like the Scheidemanns and the Kautskys, failed in their duty to carry on revolutionary agitation, revolutionary propaganda, revolutionary work among the masses to overcome their inertness, who in fact worked against the revolutionary instincts and aspirations which are always aglow deep down among the mass of the oppressed class. The Scheidemanns bluntly, crudely, cynically, and in most cases for selfish motives betrayed the proletariat and deserted to the side of the bourgeoisie. The Kautsky and the Longuet supporters did the same thing, only hesitatingly and haltingly, and casting cowardly side-glances at those who were stronger at the moment. In all his writings during the war Kautsky tried to extinguish the revolutionary spirit instead of fostering and fanning it.
The fact that Kautsky does not even understand the enormous theoretical importance, and the even greater agitational and propaganda importance, of the “accusation” that the proletarians of Europe have betrayed the Russian revolution will remain a veritable historical monument to the philistine stupefaction of the “average” leader of German official Social-Democracy! Kautsky does not understand that, owing to the censorship prevailing in the German “Reich”, this “accusation” is perhaps the only form in which the German socialists who have not betrayed socialism—Liebknecht and his friends—can express their appeal to the German workers to throw off the Scheidemanns and the Kautskys, to push aside such “leaders”, to free themselves from their stultifying and debasing propaganda, to rise in revolt in spite of them, without them, and march over their heads towards revolution!
Kautsky does not understand this. And how could he understand the tactics of the Bolsheviks? Can a man who renounces revolution in general be expected to weigh and appraise the conditions of the development of revolution in one of the most “difficult” cases?
The Bolsheviks’ tactics were correct; they were the only internationalist tactics, because they were based, not on the cowardly fear of a world revolution, not on a philistine “lack of faith” in it, not on the narrow nationalist desire to protect one’s “own” fatherland (the fatherland of one’s own bourgeoisie), while not “giving a damn” about all the rest, but on a correct (and, before the war and before the apostasy of the social-chauvinists and social-pacifists, a universally accepted) estimation of the revolutionary situation in Europe. These tactics were the only internationalist tactics, because they did the utmost possible in one country for the development, support and awakening of the revolution in all countries. These tactics have been justified by their enormous success, for Bolshevism (not by any means because of the merits of the Russian Bolsheviks, but because of the most profound sympathy of the people everywhere for tactics that are revolutionary in practice) has become world Bolshevism, has produced an idea, a theory, a programme and tactics which differ concretely and in practice from those of social-chauvinism and social-pacifism. Bolshevism has given a coup de grâce to the old, decayed International of the Scheidemanns and Kautskys, Renaudels and Longuets, Hendersons and MacDonalds, who from now on will be treading on each other’s feet, dreaming about “unity” and trying to revive a corpse. Bolshevism has created the ideological and tactical foundations of a Third International, of a really proletarian and Communist International, which will take into consideration both the gains of the tranquil epoch and the experience of the epoch of revolutions, which has begun.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 291 - 292)
The foundation of a genuinely proletarian, genuinely internationalist, genuinely revolutionary Third International, the Communist International, became a fact when the German Spartacus League, with such world-known and world-famous leaders, with such staunch working-class champions as Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin and Franz Mehring, made a clean break with socialists like Scheidemann and Südekum, social-chauvinists (socialists in words, but chauvinists in deeds) who have earned eternal shame by their alliance with the predatory, imperialist German bourgeoisie and Wilhelm II. It became a fact when the Spartacus League changed its name to the Communist Party of Germany. Though it has not yet been officially inaugurated, the Third International actually exists.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 429 - 430)
The revolution in Germany—which is particularly important and characteristic as one of the most advanced capitalist countries—at once assumed “Soviet” forms. The whole course of the German revolution, and particularly the struggle of the Spartacists, i.e., the true and only representatives of the proletariat, against the alliance of those treacherous scoundrels, the Scheidemanns and Südekums, with the bourgeoisie—all this clearly shows how history has formulated the question in relation to Germany:
“Soviet power” or the bourgeois parliament, no matter under what signboard (such as “National” or “Constituent” Assembly) it may appear.
That is how world history has formulated the question. Now, this can and must be said without any exaggeration.
Karl Liebknecht is a name known to the workers of all countries. Everywhere, and particularly in the Allied countries, it is the symbol of a leader’s devotion to the interests of the proletariat and loyalty to the socialist revolution. It is the symbol of really sincere, really self-sacrificing and ruthless struggle against capitalism. It is the symbol of uncompromising struggle against imperialism not in words, but in deeds, of self-sacrificing struggle precisely in the period when “one’s own” country is flushed with imperialist victories. With Liebknecht and the Spartacists are all those German socialists who have remained honest and really revolutionary, all the best and dedicated men among the proletariat, the exploited masses who are seething with indignation and among whom there is a growing readiness for revolution.
Against Liebknecht are the Scheidemanns, the Südekums and the whole gang of despicable lackeys of the Kaiser and the bourgeoisie. They are just as much traitors to socialism as the Gomperses and Victor Bergers, the Hendersons and Webbs, the Renaudels and Vanderveldes. They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie, those whom we Bolsheviks called (applying the name to the Russian Südekums, the Mensheviks) “agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement”, and to whom the best socialists in America gave the magnificently expressive and very fitting title: “labour lieutenants of the capitalist class”. They represent the latest, “modern”, type of socialist treachery, for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting “gain” from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of “their own” country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.
Between the Spartacists and the Scheidemann men are the wavering, spineless “Kautskyites”, who in words are “independent”, but in deeds are entirely, and all along the line, dependent upon the bourgeoisie and the Scheidemann men one day, upon the Spartacists the next, some following the former and some the latter. These are people without ideas, without backbone, without policy, without honour, without conscience, the living embodiment of the bewilderment of philistines who stand for socialist revolution in words, but are actually incapable of understanding it when it has begun and, in renegade fashion, defend “democracy” in general, that is, actually defend bourgeois democracy.
In every capitalist country, every thinking worker will, in the situation varying with national and historical conditions, perceive these three main trends among the socialists and among the syndicalists, for the imperialist war and the incipient world proletarian revolution engender identical ideological and political trends all over the world.
The foregoing lines were written before the brutal and dastardly murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg by the Ebert and Scheidemann government. Those butchers, in their servility to the bourgeoisie, allowed the German whiteguards, the watchdogs of sacred capitalist property, to lynch Rosa Luxemburg, to murder Karl Liebknecht by shooting him in the back on the patently false plea that he “attempted to escape” (Russian tsarism often used that excuse to murder prisoners during its bloody suppression of the 1905 Revolution). At the same time those butchers protected the whiteguards with the authority of the government, which claims to be quite innocent and to stand above classes! No words can describe the foul and abominable character of the butchery perpetrated by alleged socialists. Evidently, history has chosen a path on which the role of “labour lieutenants of the capitalist class” must be played to the “last degree” of brutality, baseness and meanness. Let those simpletons, the Kautskyites, talk in their newspaper Freiheit about a “court” of representatives of “all” “socialist” parties (those servile souls insist that the Scheidemann executioners are socialists)! Those heroes of philistine stupidity and petty-bourgeois cowardice even fail to understand that the courts are organs of state power, and that the issue in the struggle and civil war now being waged in Germany is precisely one of who is to hold this power—the bourgeoisie, “served” by the Scheidemanns as executioners and instigators of pogroms, and by the Kautskys as glorifiers of “pure democracy”, or the proletariat, which will overthrow the capitalist exploiters and crush their resistance.
The blood of the best representatives of the world proletarian International, of the unforgettable leaders of the world socialist revolution, will steel ever new masses of workers for the life-and-death struggle. And this struggle will lead to victory. We in Russia, in the summer of 1917, lived through the “July days”, when the Russian Scheidemanns, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, also provided “state” protection for the “victory” of the whiteguards over the Bolsheviks, and when Cossacks shot the worker Voinov in the streets of Petrograd for distributing Bolshevik leaflets. We know from experience how quickly such “victories” of the bourgeoisie and their henchmen cure the people of their illusions about bourgeois democracy, “universal suffrage”, and so forth.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 431 - 435)
V. I. Lenin
First Congress of the Communist International
On behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party I declare the First Congress of the Communist International open. First I would ask all present to rise in tribute to the finest representatives of the Third International: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg . ( All rise .)
Comrades, our gathering has great historic significance. It testifies to the collapse of all the illusions cherished by bourgeois democrats. Not only in Russia, but in the most developed capitalist countries of Europe, in Germany for example, civil war is a fact.
The bourgeois are terror-stricken at the growing workers’ revolutionary movement. This is understandable if we take into account that the development of events since the imperialist war inevitably favors the workers’ revolutionary movement, and that the world revolution is beginning and growing in intensity everywhere.
The people are aware of the greatness and significance of the struggle now going on. All that is needed is to find the practical form to enable the proletariat to establish its rule. Such a form is the Soviet system with the dictatorship of the proletariat. Dictatorship of the proletariat—until now these words were Latin to the masses. Thanks to the spread of the Soviets throughout the world this Latin has been translated into all modern languages; a practical form of dictatorship has been found by the working people. The mass of workers now understand it thanks to Soviet power in Russia, thanks to the Spartacus League in Germany and to similar organizations in other countries, such as, for example, the Shop Stewards Committees in Britain . All this shows that a revolutionary form of the dictatorship of the proletariat has been found, that the proletariat is now able to exercise its rule.
Comrades, I think that after the events in Russia and the January struggle in Germany, it is especially important to note that in other countries, too, the latest form of the workers’ movement is asserting itself and getting the upper hand. Today, for example, I read in an anti-socialist newspaper a report to the effect that the British government had received a deputation from the Birmingham Workers’ Counsel and had expressed its readiness to recognize the Councils as economic bodies. The Soviet system has triumphed not only in backward Russia, but also in the most developed country of Europe—in Germany, and in Britain, the oldest capitalist country.
Even though the bourgeoisie are still raging, even though they may kill thousands more workers, victory will be ours, the victory of the worldwide Communist revolution is assured.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 455 - 456)
The Russian workers’ struggle has already convinced working people everywhere that the destiny of the world revolution is being decided here,. in Russia.
I am going to read another short quotation, from an Italian newspaper. The attempts to isolate us from the rest of the world are so great that we very rarely receive socialist newspapers from abroad. It is a rare thing to receive a copy of the Italian newspaper Avanti!, the organ of the Italian Socialist Party, a party which participated in Zimmerwald, fought against the war and has now resolved not to attend the yellow congress in Berne, the congress of the old International, which was to be attended by people who had helped their governments to prolong this criminal war. To this day, Avanti! is under strict censorship. But in this issue, which arrived here by chance, I read an item on party life in a small locality called Cavriago (probably a remote spot because it cannot be located on the map). It appears that the workers there adopted a resolution supporting their newspaper for its uncompromising stand and declared their approval of the German Spartacists. Then follow the words “Sovietisti russi” which, even though they are in Italian, can be understood all over the world. They sent greetings to the Russian “Sovietisti” and expressed the wish that the programme of the Russian and German revolutionaries should be adopted throughout the world and serve to carry the fight against the bourgeoisie and military domination to a conclusion. When you read a resolution like that, adopted in some Italian Poshekhonye,’82 you have every right to say to yourself that the Italian people are on our side, the Italian people understand what the Russian “Sovietisti” are, what the programme of the Russian “Sovietisti” and the German Spartacists is. Yet at that time we had no such programme! We had no common programme with the German Spartacists, but the Italian workers rejected all they had seen in their bourgeois press, which, bribed as it is by the millionaires and multimillionaires, spreads slander about us in millions of copies. It failed to deceive the Italian workers, who grasped what the Spartacists and the “Sovietisti” were and declared that they sympathised with their programme, at a time when this programme did not exist. That is why we found our task so easy at this Congress. All we had to do was to record as a programme what had already been implanted in the minds and hearts of the workers, even those cast away in some remote spot and cut off from us by police and military cordons. That is why we have been able to reach concerted decisions on all the main issues with such ease and complete unanimity. And we are fully convinced that these decisions will meet with a powerful response among workers elsewhere.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 483 - 484)
If we had an integral imperialism before us, which had entirely altered capitalism, our task would have been a hundred thousand times easier. It would have resulted in a system in which everything would be subordinated to finance capital alone. It would then only have remained to remove the top and to transfer what remained to the proletariat. That would have been extremely agreeable, but it is not so in reality. In reality the development is such that we have to act in an entirely different way. Imperialism is a superstructure on capitalism. When it collapses, we find ourselves dealing with the destruction of the top and the exposure of the foundation. That is why our programme, if it is to be a correct one, must state what actually exists. There is the old capitalism, which in a number of branches has grown to imperialism. Its tendencies are exclusively imperialist. Fundamental questions can be examined only from the point of view of imperialism. There is not a single major question of home or foreign policy which could be settled in any way except from the point of view of this tendency. This is not what the programme now speaks about. In reality, there exists a vast subsoil of the old capitalism. There is the superstructure of imperialism, which led to the war, and from this war followed the beginnings of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a phase you cannot escape. This fact is characteristic of the very rate of development of the proletarian revolution throughout the world, and will remain a fact for many years to come.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 168 - 169)
I have to say the same thing about the national question. Here too the wish is father to the thought with Comrade Bukharin. He says that we must not recognise the right of nations to self-determination. A nation means the bourgeoisie together with the proletariat. And are we, the proletarians, to recognise the right to self-determination of the despised bourgeoisie? That is absolutely incompatible! Pardon me, it is compatible with what actually exists. If you eliminate this, the result will be sheer fantasy. You refer to the process of differentiation which is taking place within the nations, the process of separation of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie. But let us see how this differentiation will proceed.
Take, for instance, Germany, the model of an advanced capitalist country whose organisation of capitalism, finance capitalism, was superior to that of America. She was inferior in many other respects, in technical development and production and in the political sphere, but in respect of the organisation of finance capitalism, in respect of the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state monopoly capitalism, Germany was superior to America. She is a model, it would seem. But what is taking place there? Has the German proletariat become differentiated from the bourgeoisie? No! It was reported that the majority of the workers are opposed to Scheidemann in only a few of the large towns. But how did this come about? It was owing to the alliance between the Spartacists and the thrice-accursed German Menshevik-Independents, who make a muddle of everything and want to wed the system of workers’ councils to a Constituent Assembly! And this is what is taking place in that very Germany! And she, mark you, is an advanced country.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 170)
Comrade Bukharin says, “Why do we need the right of nations to self-determination?”
I then retorted, “Don’t halloo until you’re out of the wood.”
The same applies to the right of nations to self-determination. “I want to recognise only the right of the working classes to self-determination,” says Comrade Bukharin. That is to say, you want to recognise something that has not been achieved in a single country except Russia. That is ridiculous.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 171)
We have to wait until the given nation develops, until the differentiation of the proletariat from the bourgeois elements, which is inevitable, has taken place.
Comrade Bukharin does not want to wait. He is possessed by impatience: “Why should we? When we have ourselves overthrown the bourgeoisie, proclaimed Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat, why should we act thus?” This has the effect of a rousing appeal, it contains an indication of our path, but if we were to proclaim only this in our programme, it would not be a programme, but a proclamation. We may proclaim Soviet power, and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and express the contempt for the bourgeoisie they deserve a thousand times over, but in the programme we must write just what actually exists with the greatest precision. And then our programme will be incontrovertible.
Communism cannot be imposed by force.
The best people in Germany—the Spartacists—told us that the German workers are being incited against the Communists; look, they are told, how bad things are with the Bolsheviks! And we cannot say that things with us are very good. And so our enemies in Germany influence the people with the argument that the proletarian revolution in Germany would result in the same disorders as in Russia. Our disorders are a protracted illness. We are contending with desperate difficulties in creating the proletarian dictatorship in our country. As long as the bourgeoisie, or the petty bourgeoisie, or even part of the German workers, are under the influence of this bug bear—“the Bolsheviks want to establish their system by force”—so long will the formula “the self-determination of the working people” not help matters. We must arrange things so that the German traitor-socialists will not be able to say that the Bolsheviks are trying to impose their universal system, which, as it were, can be brought into Berlin on Red Army bayonets. And this is what may happen if the principle of the self-determination of nations is denied.
This self-determination proceeds in a very complex and difficult way. It exists nowhere but in Russia, and, while foreseeing every stage of development in other countries, we must decree nothing from Moscow. That is why this proposal is unacceptable in principle.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 174-175)
We must tell the other nations that we are out-and-out internationalists and are striving for the voluntary alliance of the workers and peasants of all nations.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 195)
When we establish with the Spartacists that complete comradely confidence needed for united communism, the comradely confidence that is maturing day by day, and which, perhaps, will come into being in a few months’ time, we shall record it in the programme. But to proclaim it when it does not yet exist, would mean dragging them into something for which their own experience has not yet prepared them. We say that the Soviet type has acquired international significance.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 193)
The comrades here in Moscow who are representing the Spartacists at the Congress told us that in western Germany, where industry is most developed, and where the influence of the Spartacists among the workers is greatest, engineers and managers in very many of the large enterprises would come to the Spartacists, although the Spartacists have not yet been victorious there, and say, “We shall go with you.” That was not the case in our country. Evidently, there the higher cultural level of the workers, the greater proletarianisation of the engineering personnel, and perhaps a number of other causes of which we do not know, have created relations which differ somewhat from ours.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 179)
A comrade from Latvia told us about the conditions under which our Lettish comrades are living. The greater part of the country has suffered misfortunes such as Moscow workers cannot conceive—the misfortunes of invasion and the repeated devastation of the countryside by hordes of moving troops. The Germans are now marching on Dvinsk in order to cut off Riga. In the North they are being assisted by the Estonian whiteguards using money sent by Britain, and with the aid of volunteers sent by the Swedes and Danes, who are entirely in the pay of the multimillionaires of Britain, France and America. They are operating according to a common plan which is quite clear to us; they are taking advantage of the fact that by their bloody sup pressions in Germany they have weakened the movement of the Spartacists and revolutionaries. And although they real ise that they are at their last gasp, they, nevertheless, find the situation sufficiently opportune to place some troops at Hindenburg’s disposal, to step up the attack on tormented and tortured Latvia from the west, and to threaten us. On the other band, Kolchak has achieved a series of victories in the east, and is thus paving the way for the last and most decisive onslaught of the Entente countries.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 256 - 257)
We are convinced that the masses of the working people understand what the war is about. They know that the next few months will decide the fate of our revolution, and to a large extent of the world revolution. They understand that the attempts of the capitalists to crush Soviet Russia have become so fierce, that they are attacking us so furiously, because they realise that in their own countries they are faced by the same enemy—the Bolshevik movement. The growth of the movement in those countries is equally rapid and irresistible.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 258)
Neither under slavery nor under the feudal system could a small minority of people dominate over the vast majority without coercion. History is full of the constant attempts of the oppressed classes to throw off oppression. The history of slavery contains records of wars of emancipation from slavery which lasted for decades. Incidentally, the name "Spartacist" now adopted by the German Communists—the only German party which is really fighting against the yoke of capitalism—was adopted by them because Spartacus was one of the most prominent heroes of one of the greatest revolts of slaves, which took place about two thousand years ago. For many years the seemingly omnipotent Roman Empire, which rested entirely on slavery, experienced the shocks and blows of a widespread uprising of slaves who armed and united to form a vast army under the leadership of Spartacus. In the end they were defeated, captured and put to torture by the slave-owners. Such civil wars mark the whole history of the existence of class society.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 481)
the struggle for Soviet power is the political struggle of the proletariat in its highest, most class-conscious, most revolutionary form. It is better to be with the revolutionary workers when they are mistaken over some partial or secondary question than with the “official” socialists or Social-Democrats, if the latter are not sincere, firm revolutionaries, and are unwilling or unable to conduct revolutionary work among the working masses, but pursue correct tactics in regard to that partial question. And the question of parliamentarism is now a partial, secondary question. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were, in my opinion, correct when they defended participation in the elections to the German bourgeois parliament, to the constituent National Assembly, at the January 1919 Conference of the Spartacists in Berlin, against the majority at the Conference. But, of course, they were still more correct when they preferred remaining with the Communist Party, which was making a partial mistake, to siding with the direct traitors to socialism, like Scheidemann and his party, or with those servile souls, doctrinaires, cowards, spineless accomplices of the bourgeoisie, and reformists in practice, such as Kautsky, Haase, Däumig and all this “party” of German “Independents”.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 29, page 562)
In some countries imperialism can continue to divide the workers for a fairly long time to come. The example of Britain is proof of that, but the unification of the revolutionaries, and the uniting of the masses with the revolutionaries and the expulsion of the yellow elements are, on a world scale, proceeding steadily and surely. The tremendous success of the Communist International is proof of it: in America, a Communist Party has already been formed, in Paris, the Committee for the Re-establishment of International Contacts and the Syndicalist Defence Committee have come out for the Third International, and two Paris papers have sided with the Third International: Raymond Péricat’s L’Internationale and Georges Anquetil’s Le Titre censuré (Bolshevik?). In Britain, we are on the eve of the organisation of a Communist Party with which the best elements in the British Socialist Party, the Shop Stewards Committees, the revolutionary trade-unionists, etc., are in solidarity. The Swedish Lefts, the Norwegian Social-Democrats, the Dutch Communists, the Swiss and Italian Socialist parties stand solid with the German Spartacists and the Russian Bolsheviks.
In the few months since its organisation early this year, the Communist International has become a world organisation leading the masses and unconditionally hostile to the betrayers of socialism in the yellow International of the Berne and Lucerne fraternity.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 30, page 35)
History, incidentally, has now confirmed on a vast and world-wide scale the opinion we have always advocated, namely, that German revolutionary Social-Democracy (note that as far back as 1900–03 Plekhanov demanded Bernstein’s expulsion from the Party, and in 1913 the Bolsheviks, always continuing this tradition, exposed Legien’s baseness, vileness and treachery) came closest to being the party the revolutionary proletariat needs in order to achieve victory. Today, in 1920, after all the ignominious failures and crises of the war period and the early post-war years, it can be plainly seen that, of all the Western parties, the German revolutionary Social-Democrats produced the finest leaders, and recovered and gained new strength more rapidly than the others did. This may be seen in the instances both of the Spartacists and the Left, proletarian wing of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany, which is waging an incessant struggle against the opportunism and spinelessness of the Kautskys, Hilferdings, Ledebours and Crispiens. If we now cast a glance to take in a complete historical period, namely, from the Paris Commune to the first Socialist Soviet Republic, we shall find that Marxism’s attitude to anarchism in general stands out most definitely and unmistakably. In the final analysis, Marxism proved to be correct, and although the anarchists rightly pointed to the opportunist views on the state prevalent among most of the socialist parties, it must be said, first, that this opportunism was connected with the distortion, and even deliberate suppression, of Marx’s views on the state (in my book, The State and Revolution, I pointed out that for thirty-six years, from 1875 to 1911, Bebel withheld a letter by Engels, which very clearly, vividly, bluntly and definitively exposed the opportunism of the current Social-Democratic views on the state); second, that the rectification of these opportunist views, and the recognition of Soviet power and its superiority to bourgeois parliamentary democracy proceeded most rapidly and extensively among those trends in the socialist parties of Europe and America that were most Marxist.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 31, page 33-34)
Letter to Clara Zetkin
July 26, 1918
We are all extremely glad that you. Comrade Mehring and the other “Spartacus comrades” in Germany are with us, “head and heart”. This gives us confidence that the best elements of the West-European working class—in spite of all difficulties—will nevertheless come to our assistance.
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 35, page 343)
Letter to Y. A. Berzin, V. V. Vorovsky and A. A. Joffe
Today’s Pravda has quoted extracts from Kautsky’s article against Bolshevism (from Sozialistische Auslandspolitik).
Kautsky’s disgraceful rubbish, childish babble and shallowest opportunism impel me to ask: why do we do nothing to fight the theoretical vulgarisation of Marxism by Kautsky?
Can we tolerate that even such people as Mehring and Zetkin keep away from Kautsky more “morally” (if one may put it so) than theoretically.... Kautsky has found nothing better to do now than to write against the Bolsheviks, they say.
Is that an argument? Can one really so weaken one’s own position? Why, that is only putting a weapon into Kautsky’s hands!!
And this instead of writing:
Kautsky has absolutely failed to understand and has distorted in a purely opportunist way
the teaching of Marx on the state ” ” ” ” on the dictatorship of the proletariat ” ” ” ” on bourgeois democray ” ” ” ” on parliamentarism ” ” ” ” on the role and significance of the Commune, etc.
We ought to take these measures:
(1) have a detailed talk with the Left (Spartacists and others), stimulating them to make a statement of principle, of theory, in the press, that on the question of dictatorship Kautsky is producing philistine Bernsteinism, not Marxism;
(3) provide it with at least a publisher’s foreword, as for example:
“The publisher considers the appearance of this booklet particularly essential at the present moment, in view of the complete distortion of Marxism, precisely on these quest ions, in the latest works of Kautsky, who is replacing the viewpoint of the dictatorship of the proletariat by philistine social-liberalism in the spirit of Bernstein and other opportunists.”
(4) If it is impossible to publish the booklet quickly, then get a note similar to the “publisher’s foreword” in the newspapers (of the Left).
I would very much ask you to send (especially addressed to me) Kautsky’s pamphlet (about the Bolsheviks, dictatorship, etc.) as soon as it appears—
—and then to collect for me all Kautsky’s articles about the Bolsheviks (“Democracy and Dictatorship”, the end of 1917 or the beginning of 1918; then the article from Sozialistische Auslandspolitik, August 1918) and other articles, if there were any.
Very best greetings!
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 35, page 362-363)
October 18, 1918
We have had news today that the Spartacus group, together with the Bremen Left Radicals, has taken the most energetic steps to promote the setting up of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils throughout Germany. I take this opportunity to send our best wishes to the German revolutionary internationalist Social-Democrats. The work of the German Spartacus group, which has carried on systematic revolutionary propaganda in the most difficult conditions, has really saved the honour of German socialism and the German proletariat. Now the decisive hour is at hand: the rapidly maturing German revolution calls on the Spartacus group to play the most important role, and we all firmly hope that before long the German socialist proletarian republic will inflict a decisive blow on world imperialism.
I hope that the book by the renegade Kautsky against the dictatorship of the proletariat will also bring certain benefits. It will prove the correctness of what the Spartacus group always said against the Kautskians, and the masses will the more quickly be freed from the corrupting influence of Mr. Kautsky and Co.
With best greetings and firm hopes that in the very near future it will be possible to hail the victory of the proletarian revolution in Germany.
Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 35, page 369)
TELEPHONE MESSAGE TO STALIN, SVERDLOV AND JOFFE
October 23, 1918
Russian Ambassador Joffe
Immediately transmit our very warmest greetings to Karl Liebknecht. The liberation from prison of the representative of the revolutionary workers of Germany is the portent of a new era, the era of victorious socialism, which is now opening up both for Germany and for the whole world.
On behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks),
(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 35, page 371)