From the International of Word to the International of Deed
Translation: M.L. Kortchmar
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
“In the beginning was the deed!” This was the motto chosen by history itself for the Communist International at the time when it was founded. No other motto would be more suitable than this exclamation of the inquiring spirit of Faust, who passionately strives to learn all the mysteries, “on which heaven and earth depend,” and who enjoys the moment of supreme bliss when contemplating the ultimate achievement of creative activity: “to stand upon free soil, amid free people.” The founding of the Communist International was preceded by a deed of the greatest historical import, to wit, the November revolution in Russia. Nay, one may even go further and say that without this immortal deed the founding of the Third International could hardly be thought of. This world-wide militant organisation of the proletariat is the child of the Russian Revolution, and its nature and activity are determined by this origin. It is based on the deed, on the revolutionary deed, and this must continue to be its basis, if it does not wish to forfeit its historic right to existence. In this respect it differs both from the First and Second Internationals (although not in the same manner as regards the two internationals), and this difference reflects the progress and the gigantic strides of human history during the last decades, although to our revolutionary longing and aspirations the pace of progress seems at times tortoise-like.
The first International was the fruit of theory and not of action. It was conceived in the great scientific principles of the materialist conception of history as propounded by Marx and Engels, which taught that the development of capitalist production was inevitably bound to lead to ever-increasing national and international solidarity of the workers of all countries, who have nothing to lose but their chains and a whole world to gain. Such was the goal that was set out with unsurpassed scientific lucidity and supreme pathos in the “Communist Manifesto.” It was a theory that could not be an active factor in the creation of a decisive revolutionary action of the proletariat in any particular country, but it could well serve as a guide and programme to the Communists, to the workers of all countries, under circumstances of revolution. The weak Communist groups (nearly all of them clandestine) were rather loosely associated internationally. Fruitful seed was sown everywhere for future development, but those groups did not possess the power to exercise decisive influence upon the events and to spur the march to victory. The movements and fights of a social and proletarian nature were crushed by the bourgeoisie without mercy. The bourgeoisie in Germany, Austria and Hungary was so much afraid of the “red spectre” that it dared not prosecute to a victorious conclusion its own revolution against autocracy and feudalism. The Chartist movement in England broke down after having made a hopeful start. The June massacre of Paris was the reward of the French bourgeoisie to the generous folly of the workers who had granted three months’ credit to the bourgeois republic at the cost of their own starvation.
Some fifteen years later, the First International was founded at London, in 1864, at a time when the workers in the capitalist countries were invariably defeated in their struggles. The revolutionary wave of the 30s’ and 40s’ had abated, and there was not the least indication of any new wave impending. The workers’ organisations in the international movement had small membership and influence, and constituted rather the nuclei of a solid organisation of the future than an active force in the present. Thus the founding of the International Working-men’s Association was in itself a deed, a daring, ideological deed. The object of this deed was the revolution. A master-mind had anticipated things as they should be. This is demonstrated by the conferences and by the history of the First International. It could only foreshadow in general outline the way which the workers of all countries will have to march towards freedom through revolution; it could only outline the development of workers’ parties and organisations which should break loose from the bourgeoisie and wage their own fight against capitalism and the capitalist state; it could only gather and train a body of pioneers and leaders. The Franco-German war exposed the political and organisational impotence of the First International. It showed how little it had struck root among the proletariat of the capitalist countries, and how little was its influence upon the minds of the people.
This was confirmed also by the Commune of Paris. It was not the work of the International, nevertheless, it was a great revolutionary upheaval of workers and petty-bourgeoisie, the first to take place since the terrible defeats of the middle of the century. It started in a great revolutionary deed, in the seizing of political power by the workers and petty-bourgeoisie. It was but natural for the International to declare itself in solidarity with the Commune of Paris. Some of the best members of its French section took part in the council of the Commune, worked for it and fought for it with arms in their hands, and either fell in battle or were subsequently banished into exile. The bloody suppression of the Commune, and the immediate consequences thereof to the proletariat of France and its effect upon the workers of other countries, was no doubt one of the contributing factors to the downfall of the First International. Nevertheless, its revolutionary solidarity with the Commune constitutes the crowning glory of its life and activity as something immensely greater than the general extent of its influence.
To that solidarity we owe not only the illuminating and inspiring work of Marx: “The Civil War in France,” but it has also caused the followers of revolutionary Socialism in all countries to defend the Commune against the torrents of calumny and abuse that were showered upon it by the bourgeoisie. It acted as a strong stimulus which accentuated the class-antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and brought the light of class-consciousness to the large masses. It helped to crystallise the convictions and to stimulate the spread of the revolutionary ideas and aims of the International among the widest circles. The International Working-men’s Association lived and died, and triumphed over death, as the bearer of the unadulterated revolutionary spirit and of the inalterable revolutionary will, as the educator and the paver of the path for the revolutionary deed. By its nature it did not differ from the Third International: the difference was only one of longevity, of the number of years of existence, and also of the diverse historical situations in which the First and the Third Internationals came into being. They are both alike in so far as the undying factor of the creative revolutionary will is concerned.
In this respect there is an unbridgeable gulf between the Second and Third Internationals, and even between the former and the International Working-men’s Association of Marx. If not at the very birth of the Second International, at any rate in the further course of its development this gulf was growing steadily. Its development, in spite of splendid external unfoldment meant the decline and extinction of the revolutionary spirit, which alone can give the breath of life to the international proletarian organisation and equip it for actions of big scope. The Second International, like its predecessor, was founded for the purpose of arousing the working class internationally from the slough of despond into which they were thrown after the big defeat of the Commune and to rally them again to the active defence of their class interests. The revival and invigoration of the proletarian class-consciousness had already achieved a forceful and glorious deed of historic importance, to wit: the eleven-year struggle which the German social-democracy fought with increasing success against the gagging of the proletariat by means of exceptional laws. The struggle had its recognised as well as unknown heroes, it exacted thousands of victims who languished and died either in jail or in exile; nevertheless, it did not lead to an open revolutionary battle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It consisted mostly of guerilla warfare on the part of the proletariat against the police, the state attorneys and the judges. The weapons in this fight consisted chiefly of adequate knowledge of the legal penalties and police regulations and of a close scrutiny of the ballots and of the lists of voters.
It is characteristic that the German Social-Democrats used to sing in their old official campaign-song, the “Workers’ Marseillaise,” the words, “The free ballot is the sign under which we conquer….” and in a later “Socialist March,” they vowed: “We wield not the weapons of the barbarians, neither sword nor sabre.” This solemn self-praise, however, did not prevent them in 1914 from using the “cultured” weapons of torpedo-boats, aeroplane-bombs, and poisonous gas in the service of German imperialism for the murdering of the workers of the Entente countries. Again in November, 1918, they used similar weapons, machine guns and bombs, in order to help the bourgeoisie re-establish its domination in Germany, and to crush the revolutionary vanguard of the German working-class. The ballot triumphed over the exceptional laws in 1830, because the economic and political situation was propitious. That victory germinated the seed of the foolish belief in the omnipotence of the ballot which, in conjunction with other factors, steadily denuded the German Social-Democracy of all ability to think and to act as a live revolutionary force. It was like unto a canker eating out the life-juice of the green tree, and turning it into rotten dead wood. The German social-democracy, the erstwhile “revolutionary watchdog,” became the guardian of the property of the exploiters and the defender of capitalism and of the bourgeois state. The development and history of the German social-democracy afford a typical picture of the fortune and fate of the Second International.
At all events, when it was founded at Paris in 1889, it was guided by the luminant stars of genuine proletarian class-consciousness and revolutionary ardour. It was animated by the fiery spirit of the “Communist Manifesto.” The French proletariat was still smarting under the wounds of the glorious Commune, which prevented them from losing their class-consciousness through democratic illusions. The clearest and most revolutionary elements, the Guesdists, parted company with the “possibilities” after sharp debates and formed the Marxian “workers’ party.” The German social-democracy was overwhelmingly revolutionary, it was still “agin’ the law,” and did not yet think of “opening its hand to the goodwill of the bourgeoisie,” as was to be done by Vollmar later on. At the same time, the Austrian party was equally developing as a party of revolutionary action. In England a party was formed which undertook to carry the ideas of scientific Socialism to the proletariat, and the new trade unionist movement of the unskilled workers put itself determinedly upon the platform of the class-struggle, showing equal determination in its fight against the old craft unionism which was negotiating with the exploiters instead of fighting them. Hopes were encouraged by the Social-Democratic organisations which were formed for the revolutionisation of the masses in Russia and Poland in spite of the ruthlessness of the bloody Czarist regime. Every, where in Europe, and across the Atlantic, a rising wave of revolutionary forces was surging.
The Second International was formed as a revolutionary militant organisation for the overcoming of capitalism, and for the overthrow of the domination of the bourgeoisie. It was to be a keen-edged weapon for the destruction of the enemy in the class-struggle, and not an “instrument of peace,” as was to be announced later on, in the course of the imperialist war, by Kautsky the man of many wanderings, and of many changes, and in the declarations of the Second International, since the 4th of August, 1914, which were so at variance with their past utterances. It is interesting in this connection to recall an episode of the first congress of the Second International, which is of historic significance. It shows quite plainly how the participants and leaders of that congress were entirely alien to the idea of a “fatherland” that should be defended at the price of treason to international proletarian solidarity. The best leaders of the proletariat in the great countries, including Victor Adler and Plekhanov, were arguing the question as to which bourgeoisie was the most brutal and rapacious. Everyone of them tried to represent his own “fatherland” as the seat of all the horrors for the workers and the exploited. Since the outbreak of the murderous war, we saw how Scheidemann, Renaudel, Henderson and Mussolini and the rest of them vied with each other in trying to demonstrate that their own particular country was a peaceful nest where the bourgeoisie and the proletariat were living happily together as “fellow countrymen” and brothers, and that it was therefore to be defended by the workers “to the bitter end,” as the home of democracy, culture, and so on. This comparison portrays fully the unparalleled and ignominious downfall of the Second International. What was the historical background for the rapid development of the Second International? It should be looked for in the profound depths of society, in the economic sphere, where the elemental forces are at work. Since the Franco-German war, and during its aftermath, there was a rapid and colossal growth of industrial capitalism and a tremendous expansion of capitalist production, with unprecedented progress in technique and organisation, and with the greatest concentration of industry under the domination of trusts and monopolies on a national and international scale. The circumstances were favourable to the development of strong national Labour parties and workers’ organisations, with large memberships and funds. At the same time it was made possible for the capitalists to hand out sops to the industrial workers who were getting restless, without in any way diminishing the profits of capitalism, but rather increasing them. It was far more advantageous for the capitalist to make small concessions than to have the splendid business interrupted by frequent movements and strikes, and what is more it lulled the militant spirit of the exploited to sleep and prevented the growth of revolutionary tendencies.
The Second International may boast of its proud historic achievement. It has gathered and united millions of organised workers of all countries, both politically and industrially into an international alliance. But this achievement is overshadowed by a great historical error. The Second International urged its millions of followers to give the whole of their attention to the final struggle, and to direct all their daily efforts towards the ultimate goal of the social revolution. The national Labour parties and trade unions, who were affiliated with the Second International, adapted themselves to the capitalist economy and to the bourgeois state and came to terms with them. They became the organs of Labour aristocracy and Labour bureaucracy which firmly established themselves within the bourgeois order. The glorious time of the Second International was the period of Labour protection and social legislation, of the amelioration of working conditions by negotiations and agreements with the employers and by the extension of political rights, particularly of the suffrage.
To be sure, improved working conditions and political and social reforms cannot be attained without any pressure from the bottom, without economic and political fights. In Belgium the working class fought for the suffrage by means of the general strike, and with some success, but was defeated in the second attempt on account of the infamous betrayal of the leaders. The fire of the Russian revolution of 1905 kindled the general strike of the workers in Austria who forced the bourgeoisie to carry out electoral reforms. Nevertheless, the leading tendency of the parties and organisations of the Second International was to stultify and to prevent any sharp conflicts between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and above all, to avoid the use of revolutionary fights and weapons. All this was done for the alleged purpose of sparing the precious blood of the workers for the sacred “final struggle,” which eventually found its profane translation in the imperialist scramble for world-power, from which the bourgeoisie netted immense gains and the workers got only increased misery. The congresses of the Second International adopted resolutions which surrounded the idea of the general strike with a veritable barbed wire of if’s and but’s. On the other hand they opened the gate wide to “ministerialism,” misleading the wage-slaves to believe that the gaining of a seat upon the government for an ambitious Labour leader was tantamount to the conquest of power by the proletariat.
While the development of capitalist production drove the capitalists of the different countries into close international unity, the workers’ parties and organisations became ever more attached to their respective countries, with the result that they gradually lost the sense of duty in regard to international solidarity which should unite the workers of all countries into one revolutionary organisation. Their leaders, far from counteracting such fatal development, acted on most occasions in close unity with the bourgeoisie of their respective countries on so-called “constructive work” in the parliaments, trade unions and co-operative societies. National interest took precedence to the international cause, and the movement was steadily sinking into reformism. Owing to this steady decline of international unity of the revolutionary proletariat, the Second International was bound to become a loose affiliation of political and industrial organisations of the various countries, of which each one was carrying on its own life and its own politics. It did not grow into a united and solid world-organisation with one goal and with strong and binding discipline, and thus it was incapable of carrying out any forceful actions upon an international scale. Regardless of the numbers and strength of its affiliated organisations, it was at best a “moral authority,” but never a compelling political force either to their own adherents or to their opponents.
The Second International resolved actually only upon one united international action at its first congress, and it is characteristic. We speak of the May-day demonstration for the eight-hour day, and for laws for the protection of Labour. In its original form the May-day celebration was to take place everywhere on the first of May, as a day of rest. Its purpose was to declare war upon bourgeois society, and to fight wherever necessary for the observance of this day of rest and for street demonstrations, even at the cost of sacrifices. It was only the Russian and Polish workers who courageously fulfilled their international duties and carried out loyally the decision of the international congress of Paris, unafraid of the whip of starvation wielded by the employers, nor of the whips of the cossacks. In the countries of the wealthy trade unions of the Social-Democratic parties, with many members and voters, the May-day demonstration became transformed sooner or later into a tame indoor “celebration.” It was thus reduced to the rank of usual evening meetings, associated with theatrical plays and social suppers, etc., and not exactly on the first of May everywhere, but on the first Sunday in May. Thus, the revolutionary sense and the international solidarity of this action went to the devil. In the history of the May-day celebration we see in a nutshell the whole history of the Second International itself, which was the forerunner of the great betrayal that was to take place at the outbreak of the world-war.
From the moment that Scheidemann, Vandervelde, Renaudel and the rest of them refused to answer to the war-declaration of the bourgeoisie by the declaration of the proletarian fight for the revolution, from the moment that its parties urged the proletarians of one country to fight against those of another country under the trickery slogan of “national defence,” the Second International lost actually every whit of its historic part as the organ of the world-proletariat. Inasmuch as it still drags on its existence of shame and pollution, it is a tool of the exploiters and rulers against the proletariat of the world. The workers in the various countries, who are still loosely affiliated with it, are dominated by political parties and trade unions which are bent on reforming, not on revolutionising the social world, and who therefore take care of the business of the bourgeoisie whether consciously or unconsciously, whether they wish it or not. It is the deed that decides, not the word, nor the intention. The war period and the post-war period furnish uninterrupted historical proof of the fact that the Second International has nothing left of Marxism, out of whose revolutionary ideas it has grown, save empty words and formulae which have been reduced to meaningless phraseology. At history’s hour of destiny it was weighed in the scales and found wanting.
Cowardice and treason revealed that which was hidden under a cloak of external glory. Tied and manacled by bourgeois influences and association, the Second International was rendered incapable of progressing from agitation and. propaganda of international solidarity to international revolutionary action. It could organise imposing demonstrations and frame well-chiselled resolutions, but it was absolutely powerless to act, particularly to act in a revolutionary manner. It started as an International of the desire for revolution, and it ends as an International of the negation of revolution, of betrayal of the revolution. Its first conference on the morrow after the day when the guns on the imperialist battlefields ceased to roar, the international Socialist conference at Berne, in February, 1919, laid heavy stress upon this fact. It fully concurred in the theory propounded by Kautsky that the most important task for the present was to resume production and to increase the wealth of mankind. Once again it failed to answer and even to touch upon the question of questions, whether production should be based on capitalism or on Socialism, and who was meant by the term “mankind” whose wealth was to be increased. It was opened with eulogies for Wilson and concluded with the sending of a delegation to see Clemenceau. That conference endeavoured to patch up the dissensions in the ranks of the Second International, which were strongly influenced by the antagonistic feelings that existed among the various imperialist groups. On one point alone there was touching unanimity in which social-patriots and social-pacifists embraced each other. It was in the condemnation of “Bolshevism” and of “soviet government,” hence of the Russian Revolution. And this was nothing but right, this was the inner logic of things. For the Second International, whose tatters were to be patched up at Berne, was an International of word, and not of deed.
The Third, the Communist International, arises out of the break with the Second, it must be an organisation that fights against the latter, because it is the fighting organisation of the world-proletariat for the world-revolution. By its nature and goal it is directly linked with the International Working-men’s Association of Marx, with the “Communist Manifesto.”
The Third International too, was founded after a defeat of the proletariat, after a colossal defeat without precedent in history. The bloodthirsty bourgeoisie had murdered 6,000 revolutionary heroes during the battle of June. The “victory of law and order” over the Commune was crowned with a hill of 35,000 slain workers. The imperialist world-war has murdered many millions. Yet another thing has to be taken into consideration in judging about the nature of the defeat. The June revolt and the Commune had brought defeat directly and formally to the proletariat of one particular country, and only in its further influence it came to be considered as the defeat of the workers of all countries, in view of the international class-solidarity of the proletariat. On the other hand, the wholesale imperialist butchery of the four years of war was the most terrible and crushing historical defeat for the world-proletariat as a whole. It consisted not only of the fact that the workers of the large capitalist states were directly thrown into this criminal game of murder, and that the exploited masses of the so-called “neutral” countries were promptly made to feel the effects of the war. No, the defeat went far deeper, because the international class-solidarity of the proletariat breathed its last upon the battlefield and the “sacred unity” between proletariat and bourgeoisie reared its head. Victorious or vanquished, the proletarians emerge from the world-war defeated and enslaved. Their deadly enemy has strengthened the grip of his domination over them. The glorious victims of the June battle and of the Commune had fallen for the cause of their class, as daring rebels against bourgeois society. The soldiers of the imperialist armies fought and died as abject slaves at the behest of their masters, defending the order which perpetuates their slavery.
The imperialist war brought the profoundest humiliation to the proletariat and the highest triumph to capitalism, to the bourgeois order. At the same time it marked the rapid pace of development in society. In spite of defeat, the world-proletariat carried revolution in its lap. This time it did not take fifteen or twenty years for the proletariat to rally internationally and to engage in the fight. The magnitude of the defeat has quickly aroused and mobilised the masses. Barely five years after the pitiful collapse of the Second International the representatives of revolutionary workers’ parties founded the Third International. At “Red Moscow,” in Soviet Russia. Already the place in founding suggests a chapter of history, in which the development of society has entered upon a new stage. From the “peaceful” period in which the Second International sank in the quagmire of revisionism and opportunism, into the era of revolution, when the proletariat must sever every connection with the bourgeoisie and establish its own rule upon the ruins of class-domination. When the Communist International was constituted in March, 1919, the voice of the revolution had already spoken.
Indeed, the founding of the Communist International was preceded not only by an unparalleled defeat, but also by an unparalleled revolutionary deed. The November Revolution in Russia. It was this fiery token which united the workers of all countries. When the Second International retreated before the imperialist guns, the large mass of the workers lost their faith in the efficacy of international proletarian solidarity. The victory of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat upon the blood-drenched battlefields of murder had caused them to lose confidence in the invincible power of their class, and in the power of Socialism to save them. To many millions of proletarians the deed of the Second International had crushed the theory of Marx. It was only by deed that their faith could be restored to them. The Third International would therefore not be started upon theory alone, but upon deed, in which theory became incarnate. This deed was the proletarian revolution in Russia. Under, its protection, and inspired by its example, the broken ranks of the revolutionary vanguard rallied in the different countries and joined in the Communist International. Because the masses of the workers, while losing faith in the existence and efficacy of international solidarity, never lost the sense of the necessity and importance of such solidarity. While faith was destroyed, there still lingered the flame of passionate hope which was fanned by the sorrows and sufferings of proletarian existence. The firm faith in the saving power of Socialism may have gone, but the iron need remained for the exploited and oppressed to defend themselves against the insatiable lust of the exploiters for profit and power. The Russian November revolution gave to the workers of all capitalist countries the balm for their wounds, which they needed as badly as bread. The great immortal example of a proletariat who was victorious in the revolution by courageous fighting, and who wrested from the enemy the first decisive position, the power of the state; the clear consciousness about the road which leads to victory; the rock of faith in international proletarian solidarity for the revolutionary fight against capitalism—these were the things that the victorious Russian revolution gave to the workers throughout the world.
Noblesse oblige! Rank has its obligations. The deed of the revolutionary Russian proletariat, which stands inscribed upon the annals of history for ever, must give birth to deed. Deed should be not merely the symbol, but the essence and goal of the Communist International. Only in sharpest antagonism to the International of Word will it signify the higher development in history, only then it will be able to lead from this capitalist bourgeois world of profit-hunting and exploitation to the Communist world of social production for use and of society without classes. Therefore the Communist International should apply itself entirely to the deed of the proletarian revolution. This means that it should be organically linked with the Russian November revolution, which represents the first decisive step forward in the proletarian world-revolution. It is the chief task of the Communist International “to make” the proletarian world-revolution in clear consciousness and with a steadfast will, to make it in the historic sense, i.e., to prepare the historic ground and tendency for the deed, for the world-revolution, and to facilitate and accelerate its advent. This can only be the deed of the only social force capable of such gigantic work as the deed of the proletariat, of the largest and most important and most revolutionary producing class.
For five years the Communist International has been wrestling with its task. It may indeed be proud of what has been achieved, although it may appear small as compared with the whole of the task. With Marx it is leading the masses to the sources of revolution, to the economic system. The reformist gentlemen of the Second International lisp and lie about the force and worth of capitalist economy just at this stage in history, which they urge the proletariat to sacrifice its blood and treasure to bolster up again, as its alleged duty and interest. The Communist International points out to the proletarian masses, by means of profound and penetrating examination of capitalist economy, the relentless progressive decay and dissolution of capitalism. It points out to the proletariat that it alone will have to pay the price of the maintenance of capitalism, in the shape of increasing exploitation and enslavement. It imbues the workers with confidence in their own strength and in the inevitable proletarian victory, by associating closely with the revolution of the Russian proletariat and the work that it wrought. In this way it has turned large masses of despairing slaves of capitalism into convinced and determined fighters, and it gathers them in a united and solid organisation, with strict discipline, around the red banner of the revolution.
Based on the deed of the proletarian revolution, the Communist International prizes every form and manifestation of the historical experiences of the workers as a class, to wit, the trade unions, the co-operative societies, the women’s movement, the youth movement, the educational movement and so on. It does not treat these movements with lukewarm sympathy, like the Second International. It brings them into closest union with the Communist parties of the various countries, and either incorporates or affiliates them, according to circumstances. In this way it leads new and strong currents into the channel of revolution. This channel it widens and deepens by supporting the colonial slaves of capitalism in Africa and in Asia in their national struggles against the yoke of foreign imperialism, and by calling them into the social fight against every form of exploitation and oppression. It thus strikes at capitalism in its last and firmest strongholds, and by undermining these it eliminates at the same time the strongest economic roots of reformism. Revolutionary fights by the colonial and semi-colonial peoples deprive the capitalists of the possibility of pacifying and corrupting their own domestic wage-slaves by paltry compromises.
As the trainer and educator of the proletarian masses for the revolution, the Communist International imparts to the dispossessed the sum total of the experiences of all the revolutionary struggles that took place particularly the experiences and lessons of the Russian revolution, which are the richest and most inexhaustible source of theoretical and practical knowledge in these matters. It thereby sheds a bright light upon the way and means to be used by the proletariat for the conquest of power and for the establishment of its dictatorship. The proletariat should not be content with the mere capture of power, but should go on to destroy the old bourgeois machinery of state and to organise its own power of the state, in order to overthrow the forces of capitalism. The workers’ councils are therefore something more than mere standard-bearers of the revolutionary fight for power. As self-governing organisations of the masses, at once legislative as well as administrative, they become the very organs of the authority of the state after the conquest of power. They represent the form in which the proletariat exercises its dictatorship. Therefore, all power to the soviets! The bourgeois democracy is and remains the bourgeois class domination, and only the proletarian dictatorship leads from capitalist bondage into the freedom of Communism. These fundamental lessons of the Russian November revolution were made by the Communist International the common property of millions of toilers.
This is a revolutionary deed. These millions are no longer held captive by the pale-faced reformist illusions about democracy and reform. They have been aroused to new strength and determination for the revolution. The Communist International would fail in its mission of organising the proletariat for the world-revolution if it did not destroy these illusions in the sharpest and most determined fashion. They are the bulwark of the reformists of all countries for the defence and perpetuation of the bourgeois system of exploitation. This state of affairs has been exposed by the Communist International with relentless clarity. In its ranks there cannot be and should not be any place for those elements who are still possessed of the survivals of reformist or centrist superstitions, which are a handicap and a crippling factor to revolutionary aspiration and determination. With no less emphasis and clearness the Communist International has rejected the putsch (foolhardy attempt) illusions of revolutionary romanticists who imagine that brave and self-sacrificing party action could take the place of revolutionary action by the masses. The conquest of power as the deed of the masses, this slogan which was announced by Lenin at the very first congress of the Third International, is the key-note of Communist activity.
In its five years of existence, the Communist International has drawn appreciably nearer to this goal, and thereby also to the revolution. It has kindled the flame of revolutionary consciousness and aspiration among the masses on every spot of the globe where human labour and life are held in bondage and exploited. It is a flame which will inevitably burst out in world-revolution which will wipe out the bourgeois order. In the leading capitalist countries the masses are becoming imbued with the will for revolutionary deed, and thus the Communist ranks are being swelled by hosts of determined fighters ready to follow their lead. Party-will and mass-will for revolution, these two objective historic factors of revolution are turned into one. This augurs for victory, for sure victory; if not to-day, then to-morrow.
What matters it if the reformists and their friends deride us in chorus with the bourgeoisie: “What became of your world-revolution? It is a prophecy for St. Never’s Day. It cannot and will not come true.” These gentlemen should mock at themselves, for it is people like Wells and Henderson, Treves and Kautsky, and Gompers and the others who should hear the shame and ignominy of the continued weakness of the proletarian will for revolution. There are facts galore which point to the hopeless decay of capitalist economy and to the ripeness, nay even over-ripeness, of the bourgeois order for its doom. All the force and violence of the bourgeoisie could not defend and protect this order if the workers were determined on its overthrow. That the will for freedom by deed is still weak and repressed among the majority of the workers, is the historic crime of the reformists who constitute the International of Word.
The International of Deed will put an end to this crime. It will triumph over the International of Word in its fight for the will and action and spirit of the masses. The “Labour Government” in England (from which the high priests and worshippers of “anti-Bolshevism” expect a new lease of life to the Second International) will not give victory to the reformists over the revolution, but will rather precipitate the end of reformism. This is the real historic significance of the advent of the Labour Government. It shows that large masses of the English working class have become sufficiently class-conscious to turn their backs on the bourgeois parties. And it will be the business of the rebellious of the colonial slaves of England to see to it that this growing class-consciousness should not be put to sleep by shilly-shally reforms, but should mature into sound and robust revolutionary will.
The vainglorious “victory” of reformism in England would be the last thing to mar the felicity of Communists upon the fifth anniversary of the founding of their International. Because, paradoxical as it may sound to some, this will but accelerate the advent of the proletarian world-revolution. This only enhances the painful feeling in all of us that at this moment which is so fraught with tremendous revolutionary possibilities for the Communist International, we are deprived of the personal leadership of Lenin. Lenin, the great architect and teacher of the Communist International its incomparable and unreplaceable leader, as well as the immortal leader of the Russian November revolution and of Soviet Russia. Much as the Communist International appreciates the services rendered by the talented and seasoned thinkers and workers who collaborated with Lenin in the Russian revolution and in the founding and development of the Communist International, it was he who has done more than anyone else to sever the International of Deed from the International of Word, and to render it into a revolutionary organisation of the masses. Let us learn from Lenin to believe implicitly that within the bosom of every proletarian and of every oppressed human being, there dwells the titanic promethean defiance which says to the strongest oppressors: “And yet you cannot slay me!” Let his spirit teach us to snap the chains of Prometheus and forge them into weapons for freedom and into tools for construction. Let us be like him in cool and keen deliberation, and the masses of the proletariat, the masses of the suffering and heavy-laden throughout the world, will rally to the International of Deed. These masses and this International will merge into one will and into one fight and will secure the victory for the world-revolution.