Lenin, Collective Works, Volume 32, pp 350 – 496, Moscow 1973
The Teziy are published according to the manuscript; the speech on the Italian question, the speech in defence of the tactics of the Communist International, and the report on the tactics of the R.C.P., according to the text of the book.
The Third Congress was held in Moscow from June 22 to July 12, 1921. Its 605 delegates (291 with voice and vote, and 314 with voice only) represented 103 organisations from 52 countries, namely: 48 Communist Parties, 8 Socialist Parties, 28 Youth Leagues, 4 syndicalist organisations, 2 opposition Communist Parties (the Communist Workers’ Party of Gemany and the Workers’ Communist Party of Spain) and 13 other organisations. The 72 delegates from the Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks were headed by Lenin.
The Congress discussed the world economic crisis and the new tasks of the Communist International; the report on the activity of the Executive Committee of the Communist International; the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany, the Italian question; the tactics of the Communist International the attitude of the Red International Council of Trade Unions to the Communist International; the struggle against the Amsterdam International; the tactics of the R.C.P.(B.); the Communist International and the Communist youth movement; the women’s movement; the United Communist Party of Germany, etc.
Lenin directed preparations for and the activities of the Congress; he was elected its Honorary Chairman; he took part in drafting all the key resolutions; he gave a report on the tactics of the R.C.P.(B.); he spoke in defence of the Communist International’s tactics, on the Italian question; in the commissions and at the enlarged sittings of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, and at the delegates’ meetings. Before and during the Congress, Lenin met and talked with delegates about the state of affairs in the Communist Parties.
The Third Congress had a great influence on the formation and development of young Communist Parties. It paid great attention to the Comintern’s organisation and tactics in the new conditions of the world communist movement. Lenin had to combat the Centrist deviation and “Leftist” dogmatism, pseudo-revolutionary “Leftist” cant and sectarianism. As a result, revolutionary Marxism prevailed over the “Leftist” danger.
In the history of the world communist movement the Third Congress is known for the following achievements: it worked out the basic tactics of the Communist Parties; it defined the task of winning the masses over to the side of the proletariat, strengthening working-class unity and implementing united front tactics. The most important aspect of its resolutions, Lenin said, was “more careful, more thorough preparation for fresh and more decisive battles, both defensive and offensive”.
1. The International Position Of The R.S.F.S.R.
The international position of the R.S.F.S.R. at present is distinguished by a certain equilibrium, which, although extremely unstable, has nevertheless given rise to a peculiar state of affairs in world politics.
This peculiarity is the following. On the one hand, the international bourgeoisie is filled with furious hatred of, and hostility towards, Soviet Russia, and is prepared at any moment to fling itself upon her in order to strangle her. On the other hand, all attempts at military intervention, which have cost the international bourgeoisie hundreds of millions of francs, ended in complete failure, in spite of the fact that the Soviet power was then weaker than it is now and that the Russian landowners and capitalists had whole armies on the territory of the R.S.F.S.R. Opposition to the war against Soviet Russia has grown considerably in all capitalist countries, adding fuel to the revolutionary movement of the proletariat and extending to very wide sections of the petty-bourgeois democrats. The conflict of interests between the various imperialist countries has become acute, and is growing more acute every day. The revolutionary movement among the hundreds of millions of oppressed peoples of the East is growing with remarkable vigour. The result of all these conditions is that international imperialism has proved unable to strangle Soviet Russia, although it is far stronger, and has been obliged for the time being to grant her recognition, or semi-recognition, and to conclude trade agreements with her.
The result is a state of equilibrium which, although highly unstable and precarious, enables the Socialist Republic to exist—not for long, of course—within the capitalist encirclement.
2. The International Alignment Of Class Forces
This state of affairs has given rise to the following international alignment of class forces.
The international bourgeoisie, deprived of the opportunity of waging open war against Soviet Russia, is waiting and watching for the moment when circumstances will permit it to resume the war.
The proletariat in all the advanced capitalist countries has already formed its vanguard, the Communist Parties, which are growing, making steady progress towards winning the majority of the proletariat in each country, and destroying the influence of the old trade union bureaucrats and of the upper stratum of the working class of America and Europe, which has been corrupted by imperialist privileges.
The petty-bourgeois democrats in the capitalist countries, whose foremost sections are represented by the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, serve today as the mainstay of capitalism, since they retain an influence over the majority, or a considerable section, of the industrial and commercial workers and office employees who are afraid that if revolution breaks out they will lose the relative petty-bourgeois prosperity created by the privileges of imperialism. But the growing economic crisis is worsening the condition of broad sections of the people everywhere, and this, with the looming inevitability of new imperialist wars if capitalism is preserved, is steadily weakening this mainstay.
The masses of the working people in the colonial and semi colonial countries, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of the globe, were roused to political life at the turn of the twentieth century, particularly by the revolutions in Russia, Turkey, Persia and China. The imperialist war of 1914-18 and the Soviet power in Russia are completing the process of converting these masses into an active factor in world politics and in the revolutionary destruction of imperialism, although the educated philistines of Europe and America, including the leaders of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, stubbornly refuse to see this. British India is at the head of these countries, and there revolution is maturing in proportion, on the one hand, to the growth of the industrial and railway proletariat, and, on the other, to the increase in the brutal terrorism of the British, who with ever greater frequency resort to massacres (Amritsar), public floggings, etc.
3. The Alignment Of Class Forces In Russia
The internal political situation in Soviet Russia is determined by the fact that here, for the first time in history, there have been, for a number of years, only two classes—the proletariat, trained for decades by a very young, but modern, large-scale machine industry, and the small peasantry, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population.
In Russia, the big landowners and capitalists have not vanished, but they have been subjected to total expropriation and crushed politically as a class, whose remnants are hiding out among Soviet government employees. They have preserved their class organisation abroad, as émigrés, numbering probably from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 people, with over 50 daily newspapers of all bourgeois and “socialist” (i.e., petty-bourgeois) parties, the remnants of an army, and numerous connections with the international bourgeoisie. These émigrés are striving, with might and main, to destroy the Soviet power and restore capitalism in Russia.
4. The Proletariat And The Peasantry In Russia
This being the internal situation in Russia, the main task now confronting her proletariat, as the ruling class, is properly to determine and carry out the measures that are necessary to lead the peasantry, establish a firm alliance with them and achieve the transition, in a series of gradual stages, to large-scale, socialised, mechanised agriculture. This is a particularly difficult task in Russia, both because of her backwardness, and her extreme state of ruin as a result of seven years of imperialist and civil war. But apart from these specific circumstances, this is one of the most difficult tasks of socialist construction that will confront all capitalist countries, with, perhaps, the sole exception of Britain. However, even in regard to Britain it must not be forgotten that, while the small tenant farmers there constitute only a very small class, the percentage of workers and office employees who enjoy a petty-bourgeois standard of living is exceptionally high, due to the actual enslavement of hundreds of millions of people in Britain’s colonial possessions.
Hence, from the standpoint of development of the world proletarian revolution as a single process, the epoch Russia is passing through is significant as a practical test and a verification of the policy of a proletariat in power towards the mass of the petty bourgeoisie.
The Military Alliance Between The Proletariat
And The Peasantry In The R.S.F.S.R.
The basis for proper relations between the proletariat and the peasantry in Soviet Russia was created in the period of 1917-21 when the invasion of the capitalists and landowners, supported by the whole world bourgeoisie and all the petty-bourgeois democratic parties (Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks), caused the proletariat and the peasantry to form, sign and seal a military alliance to defend the Soviet power. Civil war is the most intense form of class struggle, but the more intense it is, the more rapidly its flames consume all petty-bourgeois illusions and prejudices, and the more clearly experience proves even to the most backward strata of the peasantry that only the dictatorship of the proletariat can save it, and that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks are in fact merely the servants of the landowners and capitalists.
But while the military alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry was—and had perforce to be—the primary form of their firm alliance, it could not have been maintained even for a few weeks without an economic alliance between the two classes. The peasants received from the workers’ state all the land and were given protection against the landowners and the kulaks; the workers have been receiving from the peasants loans of food supplies until large-scale industry is restored.
The Transition To Proper Economic Relations
Between The Proletariat And The Peasantry
The alliance between the small peasants and the proletariat can become a correct and stable one from the socialist standpoint only when the complete restoration of transport and large-scale industry enables the proletariat to give the peasants, in exchange for food, all the goods they need for their own use and for the improvement of their farms. With the country in ruins, this could not possibly be achieved at once. The surplus appropriation system was the best measure available to the insufficiently organised state to maintain itself in the incredibly arduous war against the landowners. The crop failure and the fodder shortage in 1920 particularly increased the hardships of the peasantry, already severe enough, and made the immediate transition to the tax in kind imperative.
The moderate tax in kind will bring about a big improvement in the condition of the peasantry at once, and will at the same time stimulate them to enlarge crop areas and improve farming methods.
The tax in kind signifies a transition from the requisition of all the peasants’ surplus grain to regular socialist exchange of products between industry and agriculture.
The Conditions Under Which
The Soviet Government Can Permit Capitalism And Concessions, And The Significance Thereof
Naturally, the tax in kind means freedom for the peasant to dispose of his after-tax surplus at his own discretion. Since the state cannot provide the peasant with goods from socialist factories in exchange for all his surplus, freedom to trade with this surplus necessarily means freedom for the development of capitalism.
Within the limits indicated, however, this is not at all dangerous for socialism as long as transport and large-scale industry remain in the hands of the proletariat. On the contrary, the development of capitalism, controlled and regulated by the proletarian state (i.e., “state” capitalism in this sense of the term), is advantageous and necessary in an extremely devastated and backward small-peasant country (within certain limits, of course), inasmuch as it is capable of hastening the immediate revival of peasant farming. This applies still more to concessions: without denationalising anything, the workers’ state leases certain mines, forest tracts, oilfields, and so forth, to foreign capitalists in order to obtain from them extra equipment and machinery that will enable us to accelerate the restoration of Soviet large-scale industry.
The payment made to the concessionaires in the form of a share of the highly valuable products obtained is undoubtedly tribute, which the workers’ state pays to the world bourgeoisie; without in any way glossing this over, we must clearly realise that we stand to gain by paying this tribute, so long as it accelerates the restoration of our large-scale industry and substantially improves the condition of the workers and peasants.
8. The Success Of Our Food Policy
The food policy pursued by Soviet Russia in 1917-21 was undoubtedly very crude and imperfect, and gave rise to many abuses. A number of mistakes were made in its implementation. But as a whole, it was the only possible policy under the conditions prevailing at the time. And it did fulfil its historic mission: it saved the proletarian dictatorship in a ruined and backward country. There can be no doubt that it has gradually improved. In the first year that we had full power (August 1, 1918 to August 1, 1919) the state collected 110 million poods of grain; in the second year it collected 220 million poods, and in the third year—over 285 million poods.
Now, having acquired practical experience, we have set out, and expect, to collect 400 million poods (the tax in kind is expected to bring in 240 million poods). Only when it is actually in possession of an adequate stock of food will the workers’ state be able to stand firmly on its own feet economically, secure the, steady, if slow, restoration of large-scale industry, and create a proper financial system.
The Material Basis Of Socialism And The Plan
For The Electrification Of Russia
A large-scale machine industry capable of reorganising agriculture is the only material basis that is possible for socialism. But we cannot confine ourselves to this general thesis. It must be made more concrete. Large-scale industry based on the latest achievements of technology and capable of reorganising agriculture implies the electrification of the whole country. We had to undertake the scientific work of drawing up such a plan for the electrification of the R.S.F.S.R. and we have accomplished it. With the co-operation of over two hundred of the best scientists, engineers and agronomists in Russia, this work has now been completed; it was published in a large volume and, as a whole, endorsed by the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets in December 1920. Arrangements have now been made to convene an all-Russia congress of electrical engineers in August 1921 to examine this plan in detail, before it is given final government endorsement. The execution of the first part of the electrification scheme is estimated to take ten years, and will require about 370 million man-days.
In 1918, we had eight newly erected power stations (with a total capacity of 4,757 kw); in 1919, the figure rose to 36 (total capacity of 1,648 kw), and in 1920, it rose to 100 (total capacity of 8,699 kw).
Modest as this beginning is for our vast country, a start has been made, work has begun and is making steady progress. After the imperialist war, after a million prisoners of war in Germany had become familiar with modern up-to-date technique, after the stern but hardening experience of three years of civil war, the Russian peasant is a different man. With every passing month he sees more clearly and more vividly that only the guidance given by the proletariat is capable of leading the mass of small farmers out of capitalist slavery to socialism.
10. The Role Of “Pure Democracy”, The Second
The Socialist-Revolutionaries And The Mensheviks
The Allies Of Capital
The dictatorship of the proletariat does not signify a cessation of the class struggle, but its continuation in a new form and with new weapons. This dictatorship is essential as long as classes exist, as long as the bourgeoisie, overthrown in one country, intensifies tenfold its attacks on socialism on an international scale. In the transition period, the small farmer class is bound to experience certain vacillations. The difficulties of transition, and the influence of the bourgeoisie, inevitably cause the mood of this mass to change from time to time. Upon the proletariat, enfeebled and to a certain extent declassed by the destruction of the large-scale machine industry, which is its vital foundation, devolves the very difficult but paramount historic task of holding out in spite of these vacillations, and of carrying to victory its cause of emancipating labour from the yoke of capital.
The policy pursued-by the petty-bourgeois democratic parties, i.e., the parties affiliated to the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, represented in Russia by the S.R. (Socialist-Revolutionary) and Menshevik parties, is the political expression of the vacillations of the petty bourgeoisie. These parties now have their headquarters and newspapers abroad, and are actually in a bloc with the whole of the bourgeois counter-revolution and are serving it loyally.
The shrewd leaders of the Russian big bourgeoisie headed by Milyukov, the leader of the Cadet (Constitutional Democratic) Party, have quite clearly, definitely and openly appraised this role of the petty-bourgeois democrats, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. In connection with the Kronstadt mutiny, in which the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and whiteguards, joined forces, Milyukov declared in favour of the “Soviets without the Bolsheviks” slogan. Elaborating on the idea, he wrote that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks “are welcome to try” (Pravda No. 64, 1921, quoted from the Paris Posledniye Novosti), because upon them devolves the task of first taking power away from the Bolsheviks. Milyukov, the leader of the big bourgeoisie, has correctly appraised the lesson taught by all revolutions, namely, that the petty-bourgeois democrats are incapable of holding power, and always serve merely as a screen for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and a stepping stone to its undivided power.
The proletarian revolution in Russia again and again confirms this lesson of 1789-94 and 1848-49, and also what Frederick Engels said in his letter to Bebel of December 11, 1884.
. . .“Pure democracy . . . when the moment of revolution comes, acquires a temporary importance . . . as the final sheet-anchor of the whole bourgeois and even feudal economy. . . . Thus between March and September 1848 the whole feudal-bureaucratic mass strengthened the liberals in order to hold down the revolutionary masses. . . . In any case our sole adversary on the day of the crisis and on the day after the crisis will be the whole of the reaction which will group around pure democracy, and this, I think, should not be lost sight of.” (Published in Russian in Kommunistichesky Trud No. 360, June 9, 1921, in an article by Comrade V. Adoratsky: “Marx and Engels on Democracy”. In German, published in the book, Friedrich Engels, Politisches Vermächtnis, Internationale Jugend-Bibliothek, Nr. 12, Berlin, 1920, S. 19.)
Moscow, Kremlin, June 13, 1921
Speech On The Italian Question
Comrades, I should like to reply mainly to Comrade Lazzari. He said: “Quote concrete facts, not words.” Excellent. But if we trace the development of the reformist opportunist trend in Italy, what will that be, words or facts? In your speeches and in the whole of your policy you lose sight of the fact, which is so important for the socialist movement in Italy, that not only this trend, but an opportunist reformist group has existed for quite a long time. I still very well remember the time when Bernstein started his opportunist propaganda, which ended in social-patriotism, in the treason and bankruptcy of the Second International. We have known Turati ever since, not only by name, but for his propaganda in the Italian party and in the Italian working-class movement, of which he has been a disrupter for the past twenty years. Lack of time prevents me from closely studying the material concerning the Italian party; but I think that one of the most important documents on this subject is a report, published in a bourgeois Italian newspaper—I don’t remember which, La Stampa or Corriere della Sera —of the conference held by Turati and his friends in Reggio Emilia. I compared that report with the one published in Avanti! Is this not proof enough? After the Second Congress of the Communist International, we, in our controversy with Serrati and his friends, openly and definitely told them what, in our opinion, the situation was. We told them that the Italian party could not become a Communist Party as long as it tolerated people like Turati in its ranks.
What is this, political facts, or again just words? After the Second Congress of the Communist International we openly said to the Italian proletariat: “Don’t unite with the reformists, with Turati.” Serrati launched a series of articles in the Italian press in opposition to the Communist International and convened a special conference of reformists. Was all this mere words? It was something more than a split: it was the creation of a new party. One must have been blind not to have seen this. This document is of decisive importance for this question. All those who attended the Reggio Emilia conference must be expelled from the party; they are Mensheviks—not Russian, but Italian Mensheviks. Lazzari said: “We know the Italian people’s mentality.” For my part I would not dare to make such an assertion about the Russian people, but that is not important. “Italian Socialists understand the spirit of the Italian people very well,” said Lazzari. Perhaps they do, I will not argue about that. But they do not know Italian Menshevism, if the concrete facts and the persistent refusal to eradicate Menshevism is anything to go by. We are obliged to say that—deplorable though it may be—the resolution of our Executive Committee must be confirmed. A party which tolerates opportunists and reformists like Turati in its ranks cannot be affiliated to the Communist International.
“Why should we change the name of the party?” asks Comrade Lazzari. “The present one is quite satisfactory.” But we cannot share this view. We know the history of the Second International, its fall and bankruptcy. Do we not know the history of the German party? And do we not know that the great misfortune of the working-class movement in Germany is that the break was not brought about before the war? This cost the lives of twenty thousand workers, whom the Scheidemannists and the Centrists betrayed to the German Government by their polemics with and complaints against the German Communists.
And do we not now see the same thing in Italy? The Italian party was never a truly revolutionary party. Its great misfortune is that it did not break with the Mensheviks and reformists before the war, and that the latter continued to remain in the party. Comrade Lazzari says: “We fully recognise the necessity of a break with the reformists; our only disagreement is that we did not think it necessary to bring it about at the Leghorn Congress.” But the facts tell a different story. This is not the first time that we are discussing Italian reformism. In arguing about this with Serrati last year, we said: “You won’t mind us asking why the split in the Italian party cannot be brought about immediately, why it must be postponed?” What did Serrati say in reply to that? Nothing. And Comrade Lazzari, quoting an article by Frossard in which the latter said, “We must be adroit and clever”, evidently thinks that this is an argument in his favour and against us. I think he is mistaken. On the contrary, it is an excellent argument in our favour and against Comrade Lazzari. What will the Italian workers say when you are obliged to explain your conduct and your resignation? What will you tell them if they declare our tactics to be clever and adroit compared with the zigzags of the pseudo-Communist Left—the Left which at times is not even simply Communist and more often looks like anarchism?
What is the meaning of the tales told by Serrati and his party about the Russians only wanting everyone to imitate them? We want the very opposite. It takes more than memorising communist resolutions and using revolutionary phrases on every possible occasion. That is not enough, and we are opposed beforehand to Communists who know this or that resolution by heart. The mark of true communism is a break with opportunism. We shall be quite frank and open with those Communists who subscribe to this and, boldly, in the conviction that we are right, will tell them: “Don’t do anything stupid; be clever and skilful.” But we shali speak in this way only with Communists who have broken with the opportunists, something that cannot yet be said about you. I repeat therefore: I hope the Congress will confirm the resolution of the Executive Committee. Comrade Lazzari said: “We are in the preparatory period.” This is absolutely true. You are in the preparatory period. The first stage of this period is a break with the Mensheviks, similar to the one we brought about with our Mensheviks in 1903. The sufferings the whole of the German working class has had to endure during this long and weary post-war period in the history of the German revolution are due to the fact that the German party did not break with the Mensheviks.
Comrade Lazzari said that the Italian party is passing through the preparatory period. This I fully accept. And the first stage is a definite, final, unambiguous and determined break with reformism. When that is brought about the masses will side solidly with communism. The second stage is by no means a repetition of revolutionary slogans. It will be the adoption of our wise and skilful decisions, which will always be such, and which will always say: fundamental revolutionary principles must be adapted to the specific conditions in the various countries.
The revolution in Italy will run a different course from that in Russia. It will start in a different way. How? Neither you nor we know. The Italian Communists are not always Communists to a sufficient degree. Did a single Communist show his mettle when the workers seized the factories in Italy? No. At that time, there was as yet no communism in Italy; there was a certain amount of anarchism, but no Marxian communism. The latter has still to be created and the masses of the workers must be imbued with it by means of the experience of the revolutionary struggle. And the first step along this road is a final break with the Mensheviks, who for more than twenty years have been collaborating and working with the bourgeois government. It is quite Probable that Modigliani, whom I was able to watch to some extent at the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences, is a sufficiently astute politician to keep out of the bourgeois government and to keep in the centre of the Socialist Party, where he can be far more useful to the bourgeoisie. But all the theories of Turati and his friends, all their propaganda and agitation, signify collaboration with the bourgeoisie. Is this not proved by the numerous quotations in Gennari’s speech? Indeed, it is the united front which Turati has already prepared. That is why I must say to Comrade Lazzari: “Speeches like yours and like the one which Comrade Serrati made here do not help to prepare for the revolution, they disorganise it. “ (Shouts : “Bravo!” Applause.)
You had a considerable majority at Leghorn. You had 98,000 votes against 14,000 reformist and 58,000 communist votes. As the beginning of a purely communist movement in a country like Italy, with its well-known traditions, where the ground has not been sufficiently prepared for a split, this vote is a considerable achievement for the Communists.
This is a great victory and tangible proof of the fact that the working-class movement in Italy will develop faster than our movement developed in Russia, because, if you are familiar with the figures concerning our movement, you must know that in February 1917, after the fall of tsarism and during the bourgeois republic, we were still a minority compared with the Mensheviks. Such was the position after fifteen years of fierce fighting and splits. Our Right wing did not grow—and it was not so easy to prevent it from growing, as you seem to think when you speak of Russia in such a disparaging tone. Undoubtedly, development in Italy will proceed quite differently. After fifteen years of struggle against the Mensheviks, and after the fall of tsarism, we started work with a much smaller number of adherents. You have 58,000 communistically minded workers against 98,000 united Centrists who occupy an indefinite position. This is proof, this is a fact, which should certainly convince all those who refuse to close their eyes to the mass movement of the Italian workers. Nothing comes all at once. But it certainly proves that the mass of workers—not the old leaders, the bureaucrats, the professors, the journalists, but the class that is actually exploited, the vanguard of the exploited—supports us. And it proves what a great mistake you made at Leghorn. This is a fact. You controlled 98,000 votes, but you preferred to go with 14,000 reformists against 58,000 Communists. You should have gone with them even if they were not genuine Communists, even if they were only adherents of Bordiga—which is not true, for after the Second Congress Bordiga quite honestly declared that he had abandoned all anarchism and anti-parliamentarism. But what did you do? You chose to unite with 14,000 reformists and to break with 58,000 Communists. And this is the best proof that Serrati’s policy has been disastrous for Italy. We never wanted Serrati in Italy to copy the Russian revolution. That would have been stupid. We are intelligent and flexible enough to avoid such stupidity. But Serrati has proved that his policy in Italy was wrong. Perhaps he should have manoeuvred. This is the expression that he repeated most often when he was here last year. He said: “We know how to manoeuvre, we do not want slavish imitation. That would be idiocy. We must manoeuvre, so as to bring about a separation from opportunism. You Russians do not know how to do that. We Italians are more skilful at that sort of thing. That remains to be seen.” And what is it we saw? Serrati executed a brilliant manoeuvre. He broke away from 58,000 Communists. And now these comrades come here and say: “If you reject us the masses will be confused.” No, comrades, you are mistaken. The masses of the workers in Italy are confused now, and it will do them good if we tell them: “Comrades, you must choose; Italian workers, you must choose between the Communist International, which will never call upon you slavishly to imitate the Russians, and the Mensheviks, whom we have known for twenty years, and whom we shall never tolerate as neighbours in a genuinely revolutionary Communist International.” That is what we shall say to the Italian workers. There can be no doubt about the result. The masses of workers will follow us. (Loud approval.)
Speech In Defence Of The Tactics Of The Communist International
Comrades! I deeply regret that I must confine myself to self-defence. (Laughter.) I say deeply regret, because after acquainting myself with Comrade Terracini’s speech and the amendments introduced by three delegations, I should very much like to take the offensive, for, properly speaking, offensive operations are essential against the views defended by Terracini and these three delegations. If the Congress is not going to wage a vigorous offensive against such errors, against such “Leftist” stupidities, the whole movement is doomed. That is my deep conviction. But we are organised and disciplined Marxists. We cannot be satisfied with speeches against individual comrades. We Russians are already sick and tired of these Leftist phrases. We are men of organisation. In drawing up our plans, we must proceed in an organised way and try to find the correct line. It is, of course, no secret that our theses are a compromise. And why not? Among Communists, who have already convened their Third Congress and have worked out definite fundamental principles, compromises under certain conditions are necessary. Our theses, put forward by the Russian delegation, were studied and prepared in the most careful way and were the result of long arguments and meetings with various delegations. They aim at establishing the basic line of the Communist International and are especially necessary now after we have not only formally condemned the real Centrists but have expelled them from the Party. Such are the facts. I have to stand up for these theses. Now, when Terracini comes forward and says that we must continue the fight against the Centrists, and goes on to tell how it is intended to wage the fight, I say that if these amendments denote a definite trend, a relentless fight against this trend is essential, for otherwise there is no communism and no Communist International. I am surprised that the German Communist Workers’ Party has not put its signature to these amendments. (Laughter.) Indeed, just listen to what Terracini is defending and what his amendments say. They begin in this way: “On page 1, column 1, line 19, the word ‘majority’ should be deleted.” Majority! That is extremely dangerous! (Laughter.) Then further: instead of the words “’basic propositions’, insert ‘aims’”. Basic propositions and aims are two different things; even the anarchists will agree with us about aims, because they too stand for the abolition of exploitation and class distinctions.
I have met and talked with few anarchists in my life, but all the same I have seen enough of them. I sometimes succeeded in reaching agreement with them about aims, but never as regards principles. Principles are not an aim, a programme, a tactic or a theory. Tactics and theory are not principles. How do we differ from the anarchists on principles? The principles of communism consist in the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and in the use of state coercion in the transition period. Such are the principles of communism, but they are not its aim. And the comrades who have tabled this proposal have made a mistake.
Secondly, it is stated there: “the word ‘majority’ should be deleted.” Read the whole passage:
“The Third Congress of the Communist International is setting out to review questions of tactics under conditions when in a whole number of countries the objective situation has become aggravated in a revolutionary sense, and when a whole number of communist mass parties have been organised, which, incidentally, in their actual revolutionary struggle have nowhere taken into their hands the virtual leadership of the majority of the working class.”
And so, they want the word “majority” deleted. If we cannot agree on such simple things, then I do not understand how we can work together and lead the proletariat to victory. Then it is not at all surprising that we cannot reach agreement on the question of principles either. Show me a party which has already won the majority of the working class. Terracini did not even think of adducing any example. Indeed, there is no such example.
And so, the word “aims” is to be put instead of “principles”, and the word “majority” is to be deleted. No, thank you! We shall not do it. Even the German party—one of the best—does not have the majority of the working class behind it. That is a fact. We, who face a most severe struggle, are not afraid to utter this truth, but here you have three delegations who wish to begin with an untruth, for if the Congress deletes the word “majority” it will show that it wants an untruth. That is quite clear.
Then comes the following amendment: “On page 4, column 1, line 10, the words ‘Open Letter’, etc., should be deleted.“ I have already heard one speech today in which I found the same idea. But there it was quite natural. It was the speech of Comrade Hempel, a member of the German Communist Workers’ Party. He said: “The ‘Open Letter’ was an act of opportunism.” To my deep regret and shame, I have already heard such views privately. But when, at the Congress, after such prolonged debate, the “Open Letter” is declared opportunist—that is a shame and a disgrace! And now Comrade Terracini comes forward on behalf of the three delegations and wants to delete the words “Open Letter”. What is the good then of the fight against the German Communist Workers’ Party? The “Open Letter” is a model political step. This is stated in our theses and we must certainly stand by it. It is a model because it is the first act of a practical method of winning over the majority of the working class. In Europe, where almost all the proletarians are organised, we must win the majority of the working class and anyone who fails to understand this is lost to the communist movement; he will never learn anything if he has failed to learn that much during the three years of the great revolution.
Terracini says that we were victorious in Russia although the Party was very small. He is dissatisfied with what is said in the theses about Czechoslovakia. Here there are 27 amendments, and if I had a mind to criticise them I should, like some orators, have to speak for not less than three hours. . . . We have heard here that in Czechoslovakia the Communist Party has 300,000-400,000 members, and that it is essential to win over the majority, to create an invincible force and continue enlisting fresh masses of workers. Terracini is already prepared to attack. He says: if there are already 400,000 workers in the party, why should we want more? Delete! (Laughter.) He is afraid of the word “masses” and wants to eradicate it. Comrade Terracini has understood very little of the Russian revolution. In Russia, we were a small party, but we had with us in addition the majority of the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country. (Cries : “Quite true!”) Do you have anything of the sort? We had with us almost half the army, which then numbered at least ten million men. Do you really have the majority of the army behind you? Show me such a country! If these views of Comrade Terracini are shared by three other delegations, then something is wrong in the International! Then we must say: “Stop! There must be a decisive fight! Otherwise the Communist International is lost.” (Animation.)
On the basis of my experience I must say, although I am taking up a defensive position (laughter ), that-the aim and the principle of my speech consist in defence of the resolution and theses proposed by our delegation. It would, of course, be pedantic to say that not a letter in them must be altered. I have had to read many resolutions and I am well aware that very good amendments could he introduced in every line of them. But that would be pedantry. If, nevertheless, I declare now that in a political sense not a single letter can be altered, it is because the amendments, as I see them, are of a quite definite political nature and because they lead us along a path that is harmful and dangerous to the Communist International. Therefore, I and all of us and the Russian delegation must insist that not a single letter in the theses is altered. We have not only condemned our Right-wing elements—we have expelled them. But if, like Terracini, people turn the fight against the Rightists into a sport, then we must say: “Stop! Otherwise the danger will become too grave!”
Terracini has defended the theory of an offensive struggle. In this connection the notorious amendments propose a formula two or three pages long. There is no need for us to read them. We know what they say. Terracini has stated the issue quite clearly. He has defended the theory of an offensive, pointing out “dynamic tendencies” and the “transition from passivity to activity”. We in Russia have already had adequate political experience in the struggle against the Centrists. As long as fifteen years ago, we were waging a struggle against our opportunists and Centrists, and also against the Mensheviks, and we were victorious not only over the Mensheviks, but also over the semi-anarchists.
If we had not done this, we would not have been able to retain power in our hands for three and a half years, or even for three and a half weeks, and we would not have been able to convene communist congresses here. “Dynamic tendencies”, “transition from passivity to activity”—these are all phrases the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries had used against us. Now they are in prison, defending there the “aims of communism” and thinking of the “transition from passivity to activity”. (Laughter.) The line of reasoning followed in the proposed amendments is an impossible one, because they contain no Marxism, no political experience, and no reasoning. Have we in our theses elaborated a general theory of the revolutionary offensive? Has Radek or anyone of us committed such a stupidity? We have spoken of the theory of an offensive in relation to a quite definite country and at a quite definite period.
From our struggle against the Mensheviks we can quote instances showing that even before the first revolution there were some who doubted whether the revolutionary party aught to conduct an offensive. If such doubts assailed any Social-Democrat—as we all called ourselves at that time—we took up the struggle against him and said that he was an opportunist, that he did not understand anything of Marxism and the dialectics of the revolutionary party. Is it really possible for a party to dispute whether a revolutionary offensive is permissible in general? To find such examples in this country one would have to go back some fifteen years. If there are Centrists or disguised Centrists who dispute the theory of the offensive, they should be immediately expelled. That question cannot give rise to disputes. But the fact that-even now, after three years of the Communist International, we are arguing about “dynamic tendencies”, about the “transition from passivity to activity”—that is a shame and a disgrace.
We do not have any dispute about this with Comrade Radek, who drafted these theses jointly with us. Perhaps it was not quite correct to begin talking in Germany about the theory of the revolutionary offensive when an actual offensive had not been prepared. Nevertheless the March action was a great step forward in spite of the mistakes of its leaders. But this does not matter. Hundreds of thousands of workers fought heroically. However courageously the German Communist Workers’ Party fought against the bourgeoisie, we must repeat what Comrade Radek said in a Russian article about Hölz. If anyone, even an anarchist, fights heroically against the bourgeoisie, that is, of course, a great thing; but it is a real step forward if hundreds of thousands fight against the vile provocation of the social-traitors and against the bourgeoisie.
It is very important to be critical of one’s mistakes. We began with that. If anyone, after a struggle in which hundreds of thousands have taken part, comes out against this struggle and behaves like Levi, then he should be expelled. And that is what was done. But we must draw a lesson from this. Had we really prepared for an offensive? (Radek : “We had not even prepared for defence.”) Indeed only newspaper articles talked of an offensive. This theory as applied to the March action in Germany in 1921 was incorrect—we have to admit that—but, in general, the theory of the revolutionary offensive is not at all false.
We were victorious in Russia, and with such ease, because we prepared for our revolution during the imperialist war. That was the first condition. Ten million workers and peasants in Russia were armed, and our slogan was: an immediate peace at all costs. We were victorious because the vast mass of the peasants were revolutionarily disposed against the big landowners. The Socialist-Revolutionaries, the adherents of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals, were a big peasant party in November 1917. They demanded revolutionary methods but, like true heroes of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals, lacked the courage to act in a revolutionary way. In August and September 1917 we said: “Theoretically we are fighting the Socialist-Revolutionaries as we did before, but practically we are ready to accept their programme because only we are able to put it into effect.” We did just what we said. The peasantry, ill-disposed towards us in November 1917, after our victory, who sent a majority of Socialist-Revolutionaries into the Constituent Assembly, were won over by us, if not in the course of a few days—as I mistakenly expected and predicted—at any rate in the course of a few weeks. The difference was not great. Can you point out any country in Europe where you could win over the majority of the peasantry in the course of a few weeks? Italy perhaps? (Laughter.) If it is said that we were victorious in Russia in spite of not having a big party, that only proves that those who say it have not understood the Russian revolution and that they have absolutely no understanding of how to prepare for a revolution.
Our first step was to create a real Communist Party so as to know whom we were talking to and whom we could fully trust. The slogan of the First and Second congresses was “Down with the Centrists!” We cannot hope to master even the ABC of communism, unless all along the line and throughout the world we make short shrift of the Centrists and semi-Centrists, whom in Russia we call Mensheviks. Our first task is to create a genuinely revolutionary party and to break with the Mensheviks. But that is only a preparatory school. We are already convening the Third Congress, and Comrade Terracini keeps saying that thc task of the preparatory school collsists in hunting out, pursuing and exposing Centrists and semi-Centrists. No, thank you! We have already done this long enough. At the Second Congress we said that the Centrists are our enemies. But, we must go forward really. The second stage, after organising into a party, consists in learning to prepare for revolution. In many countries we have not even learned how to assume the leadership. We were victorious in Russia not only because the undisputed majority of the working class was on our side (during the elections in 1917 the overwhelming majority of the workers were with us against the Mensheviks), but also because half the army, immediately after our seizure of power, and nine-tenths of the peasants, in the course of some weeks, came over to our side; we were victorious because we adopted the agrarian programme of the Socialist-Revolutionaries instead of our own, and put it into effect. Our victory lay in the fact that we carried out the Socialist-Revolutionary programme; that is why this victory was so easy. Is it possible that you in the West can have such illusions? It is ridiculous! Just compare the concrete economic conditions, Comrade Terracini and all of you who have signed the proposed amendments! In spite of the fact that the majority so rapidly came to be on our side, the difficulties confronting us after our victory were very great. Nevertheless we won through because we kept in mind not only our aims but also our principles, and did not tolerate in our Party those who kept silent about principles but talked of aims, “dynamic tendencies” and the “transition from passivity to activity”. Perhaps we shall be blamed for preferring to keep such gentlemen in prison. But dictatorship is impossible in any other way. We must prepare for dictatorship, and this consists in combating such phrases and such amendments. (Laughter.) Throughout, our theses speak of the masses. But, comrades, we need to understand what is meant by masses. The German Communist Workers’ Party, the Left-wing comrades, misuse this word. But Comrade Terracini, too, and all those who have signed these amendments, do not know how the word “masses” should be read.
I have been speaking too long as it is; hence I wish to say only a few words about the concept of “masses”. It is one that changes in accordance with the changes in the nature of the struggle. At the beginning of the struggle it took only a few thousand genuinely revolutionary workers to warrant talk of the masses. If the party succeeds in drawing into the struggle not only its own members, if it also succeeds in arousing non-party people, it is well on the way to winning the masses. During our revolutions there were instances when several thousand workers represented the masses. In the history of our movement, and of our struggle against the Mensheviks, you will find many examples where several thousand workers in a town were enough to give a clearly mass character to the movement. You have a mass when several thousand non-party workers, who usually live a philistine life and drag out a miserable existence, and who have never heard anything about politics, begin to act in a revolutionary way. If the movement spreads and intensifies, it gradually develops into a real revolution. We saw this in 1905 and 1917 during three revolutions, and you too will have to go through all this. When the revolution has been sufficiently prepared, the concept “masses” becomes different: several thousand workers no longer constitute the masses. This word begins to denote something else. The concept of “masses” undergoes a change so that it implies the majority, and not simply a majority of the workers alone, but the majority of all the exploited. Any other kind of interpretation is impermissible for a revolutionary, and any other sense of the word becomes incomprehensible. It is possible that even a small party, the British or American party, for example, after it has thoroughly studied the course of political development and become acquainted with the life and customs of the non party masses, will at a favourable moment evoke a revolutionary movement (Comrade Radek has pointed to the miners’ strike as a good example). You will have a mass movement if such a party comes forward with its slogans at such a moment and succeeds in getting millions of workers to follow it. I would not altogether deny that a revolution can be started by a very small party and brought to a victorious conclusion. But one must have a knowledge of the methods by which the masses can be won over. For this thoroughgoing preparation of revolution is essential. But here you have comrades coming forward with the assertion that we should immediately give up the demand for “big” masses. They must be challenged. Without thoroughgoing preparation you will not achieve victory in any country. Quite a small party is sufficient to lead the masses. At certain times there is no necessity for big organisations.
But to win, we must have the sympathy of the masses. An absolute majority is not always essential; but what is essential to win and retain power is not only the majority of the working class—I use the term “working class” in its West-European sense, i.e., in the sense of the industrial proletariat—but also the majority of the working and exploited rural population. Have you thought about this? Do we find in Terracini’s speech even a hint at this thought? He speaks only of “dynamic tendency” and the “transition from passivity to activity”. Does he devote even a single word to the food question? And yet the workers demand their victuals, although they can put up with a great deal and go hungry, as we have seen to a certain extent in Russia. We must, therefore, win over to our side not only the majority of the working class, but also the majority of the working and exploited rural population. Have you prepared for this? Almost nowhere.
And so, I repeat: I must unreservedly defend our theses and I feel I am bound to do it. We not only condemned the Centrists but expelled them from the Party. Now we must deal with another aspect, which we also consider dangerous. We must tell the comrades the truth in the most polite form (and in our theses it is told in a kind and considerate way) so that no one feels insulted: we are confronted now by other, more important questions than that of attacks on the Centrists. We have had enough of this question. It has already become somewhat boring. Instead, the comrades ought to learn to wage a real revolutionary struggle. The German workers have already begun this. Hundreds of thousands of proletarians in that country have been fighting heroically. Anyone who opposes this struggle should be immediately expelled. But after that we must not engage in empty word-spinning but must immediately begin to learn, on the basis of the mistakes made, how to organise the struggle better. We must not conceal our mistakes from the enemy. Anyone who is afraid of this is no revolutionary. On the contrary, if we openly declare to the workers: “Yes, we have made mistakes”, it will mean that they will not be repeated and we shall be able better to choose the moment. And if during the struggle itself the majority of the working people prove to be on our side—not only the majority of the workers, but the majority of all the exploited and oppressed—then we shall really be victorious. (Prolonged, stormy applause.)
Report On The Tactics Of The R.C.P.
Comrades, strictly speaking I was unable to prepare properly for this report. All that I was able to prepare for you in the way of systematic material was a translation of my pamphlet on the tax in kind and the theses on the tactics of the Russian Communist Party. To this I merely want to add a few explanations and remarks.
I think that to explain our Party’s tactics we must first of all examine the international situation. We have already had a detailed discussion of the economic position of capitalism internationally, and the Congress has adopted definite resolutions on this subject. I deal with this subject in my theses very briefly, and only from the political stand point. I leave aside the economic basis, but I think that in discussing the international position of our Republic we must, politically, take into account the fact that a certain equilibrium has now undoubtedly set in between the forces that have been waging an open, armed struggle against each other for the supremacy of this or that leading class. It is an equilibrium between bourgeois society, the international bourgeoisie as a whole, and Soviet Russia. It is, of course, an equilibrium only in a limited sense. It is only in respect to this military struggle, I say, that a certain equilibrium has been brought about in the international situation. It must be emphasised, of course, that this is only a relative equilibrium, and a very unstable one. Much inflammable material has accumulated in capitalist countries, as well as in those countries which up to now have been regarded merely as the objects and not as the subjects of history, i.e., the colonies and semi-colonies. It is quite possible, therefore, that insurrections, great battles and revolutions may break out there sooner or later, and very suddenly too. During the past few years we have witnessed the direct struggle waged by the international bourgeoisie against the first proletarian republic. This struggle has been at the centre of the world political situation, and it is there that a change has taken place. Inasmuch as the attempt of the international bourgeoisie to strangle our Republic has failed, an equilibrium has set in, and a very unstable one it is, of course.
We know perfectly well, of course, that the international bourgeoisie is at present much stronger than our Republic, and that it is only the peculiar combination of circumstances that is preventing it from continuing the war against us. For several weeks now, we have witnessed fresh attempts in the Far East to renew the invasion, and there is not the slightest doubt that similar attempts will continue. Our Party has no doubts whatever on that score. The important thing for us is to establish that an unstable equilibrium does exist, and that we must take advantage of this respite, taking into consideration the characteristic features of the present situation, adapting our tactics to the specific features of this situation, and never forgetting that the necessity for armed struggle may arise again quite suddenly. Our task is still to organise and build up the Red Army. In connection with the food problem, too, we must continue to think first of all of our Red Army. We can adopt no other line in the present international situation, when we must still be prepared for fresh attacks and fresh attempts at invasion on the part of the international bourgeoisie. In regard to our practical policy, however, the fact that a certain equilibrium has been reached in the international situation has some significance, but only in the sense that we must admit that, although the revolutionary movement has made-progress, the development of the international revolution this year has not proceeded along as straight a line as we had expected.
When we started the international revolution, we did so not because we were convinced that we could forestall its development, but because a number of circumstances compelled us to start it. We thought: either the international revolution comes to our assistance, and in that case our victory will be fully assured, or we shall do our modest revolutionary work in the conviction that even in the event of defeat we shall have served the cause of the revolution and that our experience will benefit other revolutions. It was clear to us that without the support of the international world revolution the victory of the proletarian revolution was impossible. Before the revolution, and even after it, we thought: either revolution breaks out in the other countries, in the capitalistically more developed countries, immediately, or at least very quickly, or we must perish. In spite of this conviction, we did all we possibly could to preserve the Soviet system under all circumstances, come what may, because we knew that we were not only working for ourselves, but also for the international revolution. We knew this, we repeatedly expressed this conviction before the October Revolution, immediately after it, and at the time we signed the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty. And, generally speaking, this was correct.
Actually, however, events did not proceed along as straight a line as we had expected. In the other big, capitalistically more developed countries the revolution has not broken out to this day. True, we can say with satisfaction that the revolution is developing all over the world, and it is only thanks to this that the international bourgeoisie is unable to strangle us, inspite of the fact that, militarily and economically, it is a hundred times stronger than we are. (Applause.)
In Paragraph 2 of the theses I examine the manner in which this situation arose, and the conclusions that must be drawn from it. Let me add that my final conclusion is the following: the development of the international revolution, which we predicted, is proceeding, but not along as straight a line as we had expected. It becomes clear at the first glance that after the conclusion of peace, bad as it was, it proved impossible to call forth revolution in other capitalist countries, although we know that the signs of revolution were very considerable and numerous, in fact, much more considerable and numerous than we thought at the time. Pamphlets are now beginning to appear which tell us that during the past few years and months these revolutionary symptoms in Europe have been much more serious than we had suspected. What, in that case, must we do now? We must now thoroughly prepare for revolution and make a deep study of its concrete development in the advanced capitalist countries. This is the first lesson we must draw from the international situation. As for our Russian Republic, we must take advantage of this brief respite in order to adapt our tactics to this zigzag line of history. This equilibrium is very important politically, because we clearly see that in many West-European countries, where the broad mass of the working class, and possibly the overwhelming majority of the population, are organised, the main bulwark of the bourgeoisie consists of the hostile working-class organisations affiliated to the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals. I speak of this in Paragraph 2 of the theses, and I think that in this connection I need deal with only two points, which were discussed during the debate on the question of tactics. First, winning over the majority of the proletariat. The more organised the proletariat is in a capitalistically developed country, the greater thoroughness does history demand of us in preparing for revolution, and the more thoroughly must we win over the majority of the working class. Second, the main bulwark of capitalism in the industrially developed capitalist countries is the part of the working class that is organised in the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals. But for the support of this section of the workers, these counter-revolutionary elements within the working class, the international bourgeoisie would be altogether unable to retain its position. (Applause.)
Here I would also like to emphasise the significance of the movement in the colonies. In this respect we see in all the old parties, in all the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois labour parties affiliated to the Second and the Two-and-a Half Internationals, survivals of the old sentimental views: they insist on their profound sympathy for oppressed colonial and semi-colonial peoples. The movement in the colonial countries is still regarded as an insignificant national and totally peaceful movement. But this is not so. It has undergone great change since the beginning of the twentieth century: millions and hundreds of millions, in fact the overwhelming majority of the population of the globe, are now coming forward as independent, active and revolutionary factors. It is perfectly clear that in the impending decisive battles in the world revolution, the movement of the majority of the population of the globe, initially directed towards national liberation, will turn against capitalism and imperialism and will, perhaps, play a much more revolutionary part than we expect. It is important to emphasise the fact that, for the first time in our International, we have taken up the question of preparing for this struggle. Of course, there are many more difficulties in this enormous sphere than in any other, but at all events the movement is advancing. And in spite of the fact that the masses of toilers—the peasants in the colonial countries—are still backward, they will play a very important revolutionary part in the coming phases of the world revolution. (Animated approval.)
As regards the internal political position of our Republic I must start with a close examination of class relationships. During the past few months changes have taken place in this sphere, and we have witnessed the formation of new organisations of the exploiting class directed against us. The aim of socialism is to abolish classes. In the front ranks of the exploiting class we find the big landowners and the industrial capitalists. In regard to them, the work of destruction is fairly easy; it can be completed within a few months, and sometimes even a few weeks or days. We in Russia have expropriated our exploiters, the big landowners as well as the capitalists. They had no organisations of their own during the war and operated merely as the appendages of the military forces of the international bourgeoisie. Now, after we have repulsed the attacks of the international counter-revolution, organisations of the Russian bourgeoisie and of all the Russian counter-revolutionary parties have been formed abroad. The number of Russian émigrés scattered in all foreign countries may be estimated at one and a half to two millions. In nearly every country they publish daily newspapers, and all the parties, landowner and petty-bourgeois, not excluding the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, have numerous ties with foreign bourgeois elements, that is to say, they obtain enough money to run their own press. We find the collaboration abroad of absolutely all the political parties that formerly existed in Russia, and we see how the “free” Russian press abroad, from the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik press to the most reactionary monarchist press, is championing the great landed interests. This, to a certain extent, facilitates our task, because we can more easily observe the forces of the enemy, his state of organisation, and the political trends in his camp. On the other hand, of course, it hinders our work, because these Russian counter-revolutionary émigrés use every means at their disposal to prepare for a fight against us. This fight again shows that, taken as a whole, the class instinct and class-consciousness of the ruling classes are still superior to those of the oppressed classes, notwithstanding the fact that the Russian revolution has done more than any previous revolution in this respect. In Russia, there is hardly a village in which the people, the oppressed, have not been roused. Nevertheless, if we take a cool look at the state of organisation and political clarity of views of the Russian counter-revolutionary émigrés, we shall find that the class-consciousness of the bourgeoisie is still superior to that of the exploited and the oppressed. These people make every possible attempt and skilfully take advantage of every opportunity to attack Soviet Russia in one way or another, and to dismember it. It would be very instructive—and I think the foreign comrades will do that—systematically to watch the most important aspirations, the most important tactical moves, and the most important trends of this Russian counter-revolution. It operates chiefly abroad, and it will not be very difficult for the foreign comrades to watch it. In some respects, we ought to learn from this enemy. These counter-revolutionary émigrés are very well informed, they are excellently organised and are good strategists. And I think that a systematic comparison and study of the manner in which they are organised and take advantage of every opportunity may have a powerful propaganda effect upon the working class. This is not general theory, it is practical politics; here we can see what the enemy has learned. During the past few years, the Russian bourgeoisie has suffered a terrible defeat. There is an old saying that a beaten army learns a great deal. The beaten reactionary army has learned a great deal, and has learned it thoroughly. It is learning with great avidity, and has really made much headway. When we took power at one swoop, the Russian bourgeoisie was unorganised and politically undeveloped. Now, I think, its development is on a par with modern, West-European development. We must take this into account, we must improve our own organisation and methods, and we shall do our utmost to achieve this. It was relatively easy for us, and I think that it will be equally easy for other revolutions, to cope with these two exploiting classes.
But, in addition to this class of exploiters, there is in nearly all capitalist countries, with the exception, perhaps, of Britain, a class of small producers and small farmers. The main problem of the revolution now is how to fight these two classes. In order to be rid of them, we must adopt methods other than those employed against the big landowners and capitalists. We could simply expropriate and expel both of these classes, and that is what we did. But we cannot do the same thing with the remaining capitalist classes, the small producers and the petty bourgeoisie, which are found in all countries. In most capitalist countries, these classes constitute a very considerable minority, approximately from thirty to forty-five per cent of the population. Add to them the petty-bourgeois elements of the working class, and you get even more than fifty per cent. These cannot be expropriated or expelled; other methods of struggle must be adopted in their case. From the international standpoint, if we regard the international revolution as one process, the significance of the period into which we are now entering in Russia is, in essence, that we must now find a practical solution for the problem of the relations the proletariat should establish with this last capitalist class in Russia. All Marxists have a correct and ready solution for this problem in theory. But theory and practice are two different things, and the practical solution of this problem is by no means the same as the theoretical solution. We know definitely that we have made serious mistakes. From the international standpoint, it is a sign of great progress that we are now trying to determine the attitude the proletariat in power should adopt towards the last capitalist class—the rock-bottom of capitalism—small private property, the small producer. This problem now confronts us in a practical way. I think we shall solve it. At all events, the experiment we are making will be useful for future proletarian revolutions, and they will be able to make better technical preparations for solving it.
In my theses I tried to analyse the problem of the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry. For the first time in history there is a state with only two classes, the proletariat and the peasantry. The latter constitutes the overwhelming majority of the population. It is, of course, very backward. How do the relations between the peasantry and the proletariat, which holds political power, find practical expression in the development of the revolution? The first form is alliance, close alliance. This is a very difficult task, but at any rate it is economically and politically feasible.
How did we approach this problem practically? We concluded an alliance with the peasantry. We interpret this alliance in the following way: the proletariat emancipates the peasantry from the exploitation of the bourgeoisie, from its leadership and influence, and wins it over to its own side in order jointly to defeat the exploiters.
The Menshevik argument runs like this: the peasantry constitutes a majority; we are pure democrats, therefore, the majority should decide. But as the peasantry cannot operate on its own, this, in practice, means nothing more nor less than the restoration of capitalism. The slogan is the same: Alliance with the peasantry. When we say that, we mean strengthening and consolidating the proletariat: We have tried to give effect to this alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry, and the first stage was a military alliance. The three years of the Civil War created enormous difficulties, but in certain respects they facilitated our task. This may-sound odd, but it is true. The war was not something new for the peasants; a war against the exploiters, against the big landowners, was something they quite understood. The overwhelming majority of the peasants were on our side. In spite of the enormous distances, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of our peasants are unable to read or write, they assimilated our propaganda very easily. This proves that the broad masses—and this applies also to the most advanced countries—learn faster from their own practical experience than from books. In Russia, moreover, learning from practical experience was facilitated for the peasantry by the fact that the country is so exceptionally large that in the same period different parts of it were passing through different stages of development.
In Siberia and in the Ukraine the counter-revolution was able to gain a temporary victory because there the bourgeoisie had the peasantry on its side, because the peasants were against us. The peasants frequently said, “We are Bolsheviks, but not Communists. We are for the Bolsheviks because they drove out the landowners; but we are not for the Communists because they are opposed to individual farming.” And for a time, the counter-revolution managed to win out in Siberia and in the Ukraine because the bourgeoisie made headway in the struggle for influence over the peasantry. But it took only a very short time to open the peasants’ eyes. They quickly acquired practical experience and soon said, “Yes, the Bolsheviks are rather unpleasant people, we don’t like them, but still they are better than the whiteguards and the Constituent Assembly.” “Constituent Assembly” is a term of abuse not only among the educated Communists, but also among the peasants. They know from practical experience that the Constituent Assembly and the whiteguards stand for the same thing, that the former is inevitably followed by the latter. The Mensheviks also resort to a military alliance with the peasantry, but they fail to understand that a military alliance alone is inadequate. There can be no military alliance without an economic alliance. It takes more than air to keep a man alive; our alliance with the peasantry could not possibly have lasted any length of time without the economic foundation, which was the basis of our victory in the war against our bourgeoisie. After all our bourgeoisie has united with the whole of the international bourgeoisie.
The basis of our economic alliance with the peasantry was, of course, very simple, and even crude. The peasant obtained from us all the land and support against the big landowners. In return for this, we were to obtain food. This alliance was something entirely new and did not rest on the ordinary relations between commodity producers and consumers. Our peasants had a much better understanding of this than the heroes of the Second and the Two-and a-Half Internationals. They said to themselves, “These Bolsheviks are stern leaders, but after all they are our own people.” Be that as it may, we created in this way the foundations of a new economic alliance. The peasants gave their produce to the Red Army and received from the latter assistance in protecting their possessions. This is always forgotten by the heroes of the Second International, who, like Otto Bauer, totally fail to understand the actual situation. We confess that the initial form of this alliance was very primitive and that we made very many mistakes. But we were obliged to act as quickly as possible, we had to organise supplies for the army at all costs. During the Civil War we were cut off from all the grain districts of Russia. We were in a terrible position, and it looks like a miracle that the Russian people and the working class were able to endure such suffering, want, and privation, sustained by nothing more than a deep urge for victory. (Animated approval and applause.)
When the Civil War came to an end, however, we faced a different problem. If the country had not been so laid waste after seven years of incessant war, it would, perhaps, have been possible to find an easier transition to the new form of alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry. But bad as conditions in the country were, they were still further aggravated by the crop failure, the fodder shortage, etc. In consequence, the sufferings of the peasants became unbearable. We had to show the broad masses of the peasants immediately that we were prepared to change our policy, without in any way deviating from our revolutionary path, so that they could say, “The Bolsheviks want to improve our intolerable condition immediately, and at all costs.”
And so, our economic policy was changed; the tax in kind superseded the requisitions. This was not invented at one stroke. You will find a number of proposals in the Bolshevik press over a period of months, but no plan that really promised success. But this is not important. The important thing is that we changed our, economic policy, yielding to exclusively practical considerations, and impelled by necessity. A bad harvest, fodder shortage and lack of fuel—all, of course, have a decisive influence on the economy as a whole, including the peasant economy. If the peasantry goes on strike, we get no firewood; and if we get no firewood, the factories will have to idle. Thus, in the spring of 1921, the economic crisis resulting from the terrible crop failure and the fodder shortage assumed gigantic proportions. All that was the aftermath of the three years of civil war. We had to show the peasantry that we could and would quickly change our policy in order immediately to alleviate their distress. We have always said—and it was also said at the Second Congress—that revolution demands sacrifices. Some comrades in their propaganda argue in the following way: we are prepared to stage a revolution, but it must not be too severe. Unless I am mistaken, this thesis was put forward by Comrade Smeral in his speech at the Congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. I read about it in the report published in the Reichenberg Vorwärts There is evidently a Leftist wing there; hence this source cannot be regarded as being quite impartial. At all events, I must say that if Smeral did say that, he was wrong. Some comrades who spoke after Smeral at this Congress said, “Yes, we shall go along with Smeral because in this way we shall avoid civil war.” (Laughter.) If these reports are true, I must say that such agitation is neither communistic nor revolutionary. Naturally, every revolution entails enormous sacrifice on the part of the class making it. Revolution differs from ordinary struggle in that ten and even a hundred times more people take part in it. Hence every revolution entails sacrifices not only for individuals, but for a whole class. The dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia has entailed for the ruling class—the proletariat—sacrifices, want and privation unprecedented in history, and the case will, in all probability, be the same in every other country.
The question arises: How are we to distribute this burden of privation? We are the state power. We are able to distribute the burden of privation to a certain extent, and to impose it upon several classes, thereby relatively alleviating the condition of certain strata of the population. But what is to be our principle? Is it to be that of fairness, or of majority? No. We must act in a practical manner. We must distribute the burdens in such a way as to preserve the power of the proletariat. This is our only principle. In the beginning of the revolution the working class was compelled to suffer incredible want. Let me state that from year to year our food policy has been achieving increasing success. And the situation as a whole has undoubtedly improved. But the peasantry in Russia has certainly gained more from the revolution than the working class. There is no doubt about that at all. From the standpoint of theory, this shows, of course, that our revolution was to some degree a bourgeois revolution. When Kautsky used this as an argument against us, we laughed. Naturally, a revolution which does not expropriate the big landed estates, expel the big landowners or divide the land is only a bourgeois revolution and not a socialist one. But we were the only party to carry the bourgeois revolution to its conclusion and to facilitate the struggle for the socialist revolution. The Soviet power and the Soviet system are institutions of the socialist state. We have already established these institutions, but we have not yet solved the problem of economic relations between the peasantry and the proletariat. Much remains to be done, and the outcome of this struggle depends upon whether we solve this problem or not. Thus, the distribution of the burden of privation is one of the most difficult practical problems. On the whole, the condition of the peasants has improved, but dire suffering has fallen to the lot of the working class, precisely because it is exercising its dictatorship.
I have already said that in the spring of 1921 the most appalling want caused by the fodder shortage and the crop failure prevailed among the peasantry, which constitutes the majority of our population. We cannot possibly exist unless we have good relations with the peasant masses. Hence, our task was to render them immediate assistance. The condition of the working class is extremely hard. It is suffering horribly. Those who have more political understanding, however, realise that in the interest of the dictatorship of the working class we must make tremendous efforts to help the peasants at any price. The vanguard of the working class has realised this, but in that vanguard there are still people who cannot understand it, and who are too weary to understand it. They regarded it as a mistake and began to use the word “opportunism”. They said, “The Bolsheviks are helping the peasants. The peasants, who are exploiting us, are getting everything they please, while the workers are starving.” But is that opportunism? We are helping the peasants because without an alliance with them the political power of the proletariat is impossible, its preservation is inconceivable. It was this consideration of expediency and not that of fair distribution that was decisive for us. We are assisting the peasants because it is absolutely necessary to do so in order that we may retain political power. The supreme principle of the dictatorship is the maintenance of the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry in order that the proletariat may retain its leading role and its political power.
The only means we found for this was the adoption of the tax in kind, which was the inevitable consequence of the struggle. This year, we shall introduce this tax for the first time. This principle has not yet been tried in practice. From the military alliance we must pass to an economic alliance, and, theoretically, the only basis for the latter is the introduction of the tax in kind. It provides the only theoretical possibility for laying a really solid economic foundation for socialist society. The socialised factory gives the peasant its manufactures and in return the peasant gives his grain. This is the only possible form of existence of socialist society, the only form of socialist development in a country in which the small peasants constitute the majority, or at all events a very considerable minority. The peasants will give one part of their produce in the form of tax and another either in exchange for the manufactures of socialist factories, or through the exchange of commodities.
This brings us to the most difficult problem. It goes without saying that the tax in kind means freedom to trade. After having paid the tax in kind, the peasant will have the right freely to exchange the remainder of his grain. This freedom of exchange implies freedom for capitalism. We say this openly and emphasise it. We do not conceal it in the least. Things would go very hard with us if we attempted to conceal it. Freedom to trade means freedom for capitalism, but it also means a new form of capitalism. It means that, to a certain extent, we are re-creating capitalism. We are doing this quite openly. It is state capitalism. But state capitalism in a society where power belongs to capital, and state capitalism in a proletarian state, are two different concepts. In a capitalist state, state capitalism means that it is recognised by the state and controlled by it for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, and to the detriment of the proletariat. In the proletarian state, the same thing is done for the benefit of the working class, for the purpose of withstanding the as yet strong bourgeoisie, and of fighting it. It goes without saying that we must grant concessions to the foreign bourgeoisie, to foreign capital. Without the slightest denationalisation, we shall lease mines, forests and oilfields to foreign capitalists, and receive in exchange manufactured goods, machinery, etc., and thus restore our own industry.
Of course, we did not all agree on the question of state capitalism at once. But we are very pleased to note in this connection that our peasantry has been developing, that it has fully realised the historical significance of the struggle we are waging at the present time. Ordinary peasants from the most remote districts have come to us and said: “What! We have expelled our capitalists, the capitalists who speak Russian, and now foreign capitalists are coming!” Does not this show that our peasants have developed? There is no need to explain to a worker who is versed in economics why this is necessary. We have been so ruined by seven years of war that it will take many years to restore our industry. We must pay for our backwardness and weakness, and for the lessons we are now learning and must learn. Those who want to learn must pay for the tuition. We must explain this to one and all, and if we prove it in practice, the vast masses of the peasants and workers will agree with us, because in this way their condition will be immediately improved, and because it will ensure the possibility of restoring our industry. What compels us to do this? We are not alone in the world. We exist in a system of capitalist states. . . . On one side, there are the colonial countries, but they cannot help us yet. On the other side, there are the capitalist countries, but they are our enemies. The result is a certain equilibrium, a very poor one, it is true. Nevertheless, we must reckon with the fact. We must not shut our eyes to it if we want to exist. Either we score an immediate victory over the whole bourgeoisie, or we pay the tribute.
We admit quite openly, and do not conceal the fact, that concessions in the system of state capitalism mean paying tribute to capitalism. But we gain time, and gaining time means gaining everything, particularly in the period of equilibrium, when our foreign comrades are preparing thoroughly for their revolution. The more thorough their preparations, the more certain will the victory be. Meanwhile, however, we shall have to pay the tribute.
A few words about our food policy. Undoubtedly, it was a bad and primitive policy. But we can also point to some achievements. In this connection I must once again emphasise that the only possible economic foundation of socialism is large-scale machine industry. Whoever forgets this is no Communist. We must analyse this problem concretely. We cannot present problems in the way the theoreticians of the old school of socialism do. We must present them in a practical manner. What is modern large-scale industry? It is the electrification of the whole of Russia. Sweden, Germany and America have almost achieved this, although they are still bourgeois. A Swedish comrade told me that in Sweden a large part of industry and thirty per cent of agriculture are electrified. In Germany and America, which are even more developed capitalistically, we see the same thing on a larger scale. Large-scale machine industry is nothing more nor less than the electrification of the whole country. We have already appointed a special commission consisting of the country’s best economists and engineers. It is true that nearly all of them are hostile to the Soviet power. All these specialists will come over to communism, but not our way, not by way of twenty years of underground work, during which we unceasingly studied and repeated over and over again the ABC of communism.
Nearly all the Soviet government bodies were in favour of inviting the specialists. The expert engineers will come to us when we give them practical proof that this will increase the country’s productive forces. It is not enough to prove it to them in theory; we must prove it to them in practice, and we shall win these people over to our side if we present the problem differently, not from the standpoint of the theoretical propaganda of communism. We say: large-scale industry is the only means of saving the peasantry from want and starvation. Everyone agrees with this. But how can it be done? The restoration of industry on the old basis will entail too much labour and time. We must give industry a more modern form, i.e., we must adopt electrification. This will take much less time. We have already drawn up the plans for electrification. More than two hundred specialists—almost to a man opposed to the Soviet power—worked on it with keen interest, although they are not Communists. From the standpoint of technical science, however, they had to admit that this was the only correct way. Of course, we have a long way to go before the plan is achieved. The cautious specialists say that the first series of works will take at least ten years. Professor Ballod has estimated that it would take three to four years to electrify Germany. But for us even ten years is not enough. In my theses I quote actual figures to show you how little we have been able to do in this sphere up to now. The figures I quote are so modest that it immediately becomes clear that they are more of propaganda than scientific value. But we must begin with propaganda. The Russian peasants who fought in the world war and lived in Germany for several years learned how modern farming should be carried on in order to conquer famine. We must carry on extensive propaganda in this direction. Taken by themselves, these plans are not yet of great practical value, but their propaganda value is very great.
The peasants realise that something new must be created. They realise that this cannot be done by everybody working separately, but by the state working as a whole. The peasants who were prisoners of war in Germany found out what real cultural life is based on. Twelve thousand kilowatts is a very modest beginning. This may sound funny to the foreigner who is familiar with electrification in America, Germany or Sweden. But he laughs best who laughs last. It is, indeed, a modest beginning. But the peasants are beginning to understand that new work must be carried out on a grand scale, and that this work has already begun. Enormous difficulties will have to be overcome. We shall try to establish relations with the capitalist countries. We must not regret having to give the capitalists several hundred million kilogrammes of oil on condition that they help us to electrify our country.
And now, in conclusion, a few words about “pure democracy”. I will read you a passage from Engels’s letter to Bebel of December 11, 1884. He wrote:
“Pure democracy . . . when the moment of revolution comes, acquires a temporary importance as the extreme bourgeois party, as which it already played itself off in Frankfort, and as the final sheet-anchor of the whole bourgeois and even feudal economy. . . . Thus between March and September 1848 the whole feudal-bureaucratic mass strengthened the liberals in order to hold down the revolutionary masses. . . . In any case our sole adversary on the day of the crisis and on the day after the crisis will be the whole of the reaction which will group around pure democracy, and this, I think, should not be lost sight of.”
Our approach must differ from that of the theoreticians. The whole reactionary mass, not only bourgeois, but also feudal, groups itself around “pure democracy”. The German comrades know better than anyone else what “pure democracy” means, for Kautsky and the other leaders of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals are defending this “pure democracy” from the wicked Bolsheviks. If we judge the Russian Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, not by what they say, but by what they do, we shall find that they are nothing but representatives of petty bourgeois “pure democracy”. In the course of our revolution they have given us a classic example of what “pure democracy” means, and again during the recent crisis, in the days of the Kronstadt mutiny. There was serious unrest among the peasantry, and discontent was also rife among the workers. They were weary and exhausted. After all, there is a limit to human endurance. They had starved for three years, but you cannot go on starving for four or five years. Naturally, hunger has a tremendous influence on political activity. How did the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks behave? They wavered all the time, thereby strengthening the bourgeoisie. The organisation of all the Russian parties abroad has revealed the present state of affairs. The shrewdest of the leaders of the Russian big bourgeoisie said to themselves: “We cannot achieve victory in Russia immediately. Hence our slogan must be: ‘Soviets without the Bolsheviks.’” Milyukov, the leader of the Constitutional-Democrats, defended the Soviet power from the attacks of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. This sounds very strange; but such are the practical dialectics which we, in our revolution, have been studying in a peculiar way, from the practical experience of our struggle and of the struggle of our enemies. The Constitutional-Democrats defend “Soviets without the Bolsheviks” because they understand the position very well and hope that a section of the people will rise to the bait. That is what the clever Constitutional-Democrats say. Not all the Constitutional-Democrats are clever, of course, but some of them are, and these have learned something from the French Revolution. The present slogan is to fight the Bolsheviks, whatever the price, come what may. The whole of the bourgeoisie is now helping the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who are now the vanguard of all reaction. In the spring we had a taste of the fruits of this counter-revolutionary co-operation.
That is why we must continue our relentless struggle against these elements. Dictatorship is a state of intense war. That is just the state we are in. There is no military invasion at present; but we are isolated. On the other hand, however, we are not entirely isolated, since the whole international bourgeoisie is incapable of waging open war against us just now, because the whole working class, even though the majority is not yet communist, is sufficiently class-conscious to prevent intervention. The bourgeoisie is compelled to reckon with the temper of the masses even though they have not yet entirely sided with communism. That is why the bourgeoisie cannot now start an offensive against us, although one is never ruled out. Until the final issue is decided, this awful state of war will continue. And we say: “A la guerre comme à la guerre ; we do not promise any freedom, or any democracy.” We tell the peasants quite openly that they must choose between the rule of the bourgeoisie, and the rule of the Bolsheviks—in which case we shall make every possible concession within the limits of retaining power, and later we shall lead them to socialism. Everything else is deception and pure demagogy. Ruthless war must be declared against this deception and demagogy. Our point of view is: for the time being—big concessions and the greatest caution, precisely because a certain equilibrium has set in, precisely because we are weaker than our combined enemies, and because our economic basis is too weak and we need a stronger one.
That, comrades, is what I wanted to tell you about our tactics, the tactics of the Russian Communist Party. (Prolonged applause.)