MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  V. I. Lenin


V. I. LENIN

"LEFT-WING"
COMMUNISM,
  AN INFANTILE  
DISORDER

FOREIGN LANGUAGES PRESS
PEKING 1970

First Edition 1965
Second Printing 1970



Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, djr@cruzio.com (June 1997)


PUBLISHER'S NOTE

    The present English translation of V. I. Lenin's "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder is a reprint of the text given in V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, English edition, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1952, Vol. II, Part 2. The notes at the end of the book are based on those given in the English edition and in the Chinese edition published by the People's Publishing House, Peking, in September 1964.


 
C O N T E N T S

I.
 

IN WHAT SENSE CAN WE SPEAK OF THE INTERNATIONAL
  SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION?


1

II.
 

ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL CONDITIONS FOR THE BOL-
  SHEVIKS' SUCCESS


5

III.

THE PRINCIPAL STAGES IN THE HISTORY OF BOLSHEVISM

9

IV.
 
 

IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WHAT ENEMIES WITHIN THE
  WORKING-CLASS MOVEMENT DID BOLSHEVISM GROW UP
  AND BECOME STRONG AND STEELED?


 
16

V.
 

"LEFT-WING" COMMMUNISM IN GERMANY: LEADERS --
  PARTY -- CLASS -- MASSES


26

VI.
 

SHOULD REVOLUTIONARIES WORK IN REACTIONARY TRADE
  UNIONS?


36

VII.

SHOULD WE PARTICIPATE IN BOURGEOIS PARLIAMENTS?

49

VIII.

NO COMPROMISES?

62

IX.

"LEFT-WING" COMMUNISM IN GREAT BRITAIN

77

X.

SOME CONCLUSIONS

93


APPENDIX:

I.

THE SPLIT AMONG THE GERMAN COMMUNISTS

112

II.

THE COMMUNISTS AND THE INDEPENDENTS IN GERMANY

115

III.

TURATI AND CO. IN ITALY

118

IV.

INCORRECT CONCLUSIONS FROM CORRECT PREMISES

119

V.


125

LETTER FROM WYNKOOP

126

NOTES

127




    page 127


    NOTES

      [1] Lenin wrote "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder in April 1920 and the Appendix on May 12, 1920. The pamphlet appeared in Russian, June 8-10, 1920, and then in German, French and English in July. Lenin personally read the pamphlet's page proofs and machine proofs to ensure publication in time for the Second Congress of the Communist International. The pamphlet was circulated to all the Congress delegates. Between July and November 1920, a German edition appeared in Leipzig, a French edition in Paris, and an English one in London.
        The manuscript of "Left-Wing" Communism bore the sub-title: "Popular Exposition of Marxist Strategy and Tactics," which was omitted in all the editions brought out during Lenin's lifetime. The present translation follows the first Russian edition, the proofs of which were checked by Lenin.    [p.1]

      [2] The reference is to the shooting of the workers of the Lena gold fields in Siberia by tsarist troops in April 1912. The Lena workers had gone on strike in protest against brutal exploitation by the management. Workers in all parts of Russia replied to the Lena shooting by mass political strikes and demonstrations which ushered in a new powerful rise of the revolutionary working-class movement.    [p.12]

      [3] Longuetism -- a Centrist trend within the French Socialist Party headed by Jean Longuet.
        The Longuetites took a social-pacifist stand in the First World War. Following the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, they proclaimed their support for the dictatorship of the proletariat, but in actual fact remained hostile to it, continuing their policy of reconciliation with the social-chauvinists and supporting the predatory Peace of

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    Versailles. In December 1920 the Longuetites, together with the avowed reformists, broke away from the French Socialist Party and affiliated to the so-called Two-and-a-Half International, and after the disintegration of that body returned to the Second International.    [p.13]

      [4] The Independent Labour Party was formed in 1893 and was led by Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, and others. It claimed to be politically independent of the bourgeois parties; actually it was "independent of Socialism, but dependent upon liberalism" (Lenin).    [p.13]

      [5] Fabians -- members of the reformist and opportunist Fabian Society, formed by a group of British bourgeois intellectuals in 1884. The society took its name from the Roman General Fabius Cunctator (the "Delayer"), famous for his procrastinating tactics and avoidance of decisive battles. The Fabian Society represented, as Lenin put it, "the most finished expression of opportunism and liberal-labour politics." The Fabians sought to deflect the proletariat from the class struggle and advocated the possibility of a peaceful, gradual transition from capitalism to socialism by means of reforms. During the imperialist world war (1914-18) the Fabians took a social-chauvinist stand. For a characterization of the Fabians, see Lenin's "Preface to the Russian Edition of Letters by J. P. Becker, J. Dietzgen, F. Engels, K. Marx and Others to P. A. Sorge and Otbers " (V. I. Lenin, Marx-Engels-Marxism, Moscow, 1953, pp. 245-46), "The Agrarian Program of Social-Democracy in the Russian Revolution' (Collected Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. XV, p. 154), and "English Pacifism and English Dislike of Theory" (ibid., Vol. XXI, p. 234).    [p.13]

      [6] The German Independent Social-Democratic Party -- a Centrist party formed in April 1917.
        The party split at its Halle Congress in October 1920, and in December of that year a considerable part of its membership united with the Communist Party of Germany. The Right wing formed a separate party which existed under the old name, Independent Social-Democratic Party, until 1922, when the "Independents" rejoined the German Social-Democratic Party.    [p.14]

      [7] See Lenin's article "What Should Not Be Imitated in the German Labour Movement" (Selected Works, Eng. ed., New York, 1943, Vol. IV, pp. 334-38).    [p.19]

      [8] Spartacists -- the members of the Spartacus League, formed during the First World War, in January 1916. At the beginning of the war the German Left Social-Democrats formed the "International" group led by Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Clara Zetkin and others. It also called itself the "Spartacus League." The Spartacists

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    conducted revolutionary propaganda among the masses against the imperialist war and exposed the predatory policy of German imperialism and the treachery of the opportunist Social-Democratic leaders. But the Spartacists failed to free themselves of semi-Menshevik fallacies on cardinal questions of theory and policy. A criticism of the mistakes of the German Lefts is given in Lenin's "The Junius Pamphlet" (Collected Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, pp. 291-305), "A Caricature of Marxism and 'Imperialist Economism,' " (ibid., Vol. XXIII, pp. 16-64) and other works and in Stalin's letter to the editorial board of Proletarskaya Revolutsia "Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism" (Works, Eng. ed., Moscow, 1955, Vol. XIII, pp. 86-104). In 1917 the Spartacists affiliated to the Centrist Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany retaining their organizational independence within it. After the revolution in Germany in November 1918, they broke with the "Independents" and in December of the same year formed the Communist Party of Germany.    [p.19]

      [9] By Labourites Lenin meant the members of the British Labour Party which was formed in 1900 as an affiliation of working-class organizations -- trade unions and socialist parties and groups -- for the purpose of securing the election of workers' representatives to parliament (hence its original name: Labour Representation Committee). It assumed the name of Labour Party in 1906. Extremely opportunistic, "bourgeois through and through" (Lenin), in its ideology and tactics, the Labour Party pursued a policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie.    [p.23]

      [10] Kerensky -- Prime Minister of the bourgeois Provisional Government of Russia which was overthrown by the Great October Socialist Revolution.
        Kolchak and Denikin commanded the counter-revolutionary armies which, with the support of foreign intervention forces, waged civil war against the Soviet Republic.    [p.25]

      [11] Cadets (Constitutional-Democratic Party ) -- the principal bourgeois party in Russia, the party of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. It was founded in October 1905. Under the cloak of pseudo democracy and calling themselves the party of "people's freedom," the Cadets tried to win the peasantry to their side. They strove to preserve tsarism in the form of a constitutional monarchy. Subsequently, the Cadets became the party of the imperialist bourgeoisie. After the victory of the October Socialist Revolution, the Cadets organized counter-revolutionary conspiracies and revolts against the Soviet Republic.    [p.25]

      [12] Volapük -- an artificial language, devised by a south German, Johann Martin Schleyer in 1879. It did not gain popularity.    [p.29]

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      [13] Dutch "Tribunists" -- the name given by Lenin to members of the Communist Party of Holland. The Tribunists originally made up the Left wing of the Social-Democratic Labour Party of Holland, taking their name from the newspaper De Tribune, founded in 1907. Expelled from the Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1909, they organized their own independent party, the Social-Democratic Party of Holland. The Tribunists represented the Left wing of the working-class movement in Holland but were never a consistently revolutionary party. In 1918 they took part in the formation of the Communist Party of Holland.    [p.29]

      [14] Horner, the pseudonym of Anton Panekoek.    [p.31]

      [15] Kommunistiscbe Arbeiterzeitung-- organ of a petty-bourgeois, anarcho-syndicalist group of "Left" Communists who broke away from the Communist Party of Germany (Spartacists) in 1919. The paper appeared from 1919 to 1927. The German "Left" Communists failed to carry out the decision of the Third Congress of the Communist International which called on them to abandon their sectarian tactics and join the Communist Party of Germany and were therefore expelled from the Communist International. Later the top leadership of the "Left" Communists degenerated into counter-revolutionaries.    [p.31]

      [16] Trudovik -- a group of petty-bourgeois democrats formed in April 1906 of peasant members of the first State Duma. The Trudoviki group existed in all four Dumas. During the world imperialist war of 1914-18 the Trudoviki took a chauvinist stand, and following the bourgeois-democratic revolution of February 1917, expressed the interests of the kulaks and sided with the counter-revolution.    [p.34]

      [17] The Party membership changed as follows in the period after the February Revolution of 1917 and up to the close of 1919: 80,000 at the time of the Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (B.) in 1917, about 240,000 at the time of the Sixth R.S.D.L.P. (B.) Congress in July-August 1917; no less than 270,000 at the time of the Seventh R.C.P. (B.) Congress in March 1918, and 313,766 at the time of the Eighth R.C.P. (B.) Congress in March 1919.    [p.37]

      [18] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. XXX, pp. 230-51.    [p.43]

      [19] See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, International Publishers. New York, 1942, pp. 115-16.    [p.44]

      [20] Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) -- an American labour organization founded in 1905. Its activities were marked by pronounced anarcho-syndicalist traits: it did not recognize the necessity of political struggle by the proletariat, denied the leading role of the proletarian

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    party, the need for an armed uprising to overthrow capitalism and the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The I.W.W. refused to work in the American Federation of Labour unions and subsequently degenerated into a sectarian anarcho-syndicalist group exerting no influence whatsoever on the workers.    [p.46]

      [21] The Italian Socialist Party was founded in 1892 under the name of the Italian Workers' Party and renamed Italian Socialist Party in 1893. The Left wing gained strength following the October Socialist Revolution in Russia, and in January 1921, at the Livorno Congress, the Lefts broke with the party, convened a congress of their own and founded the Communist Party of Italy.
        An influential Left wing developed within the Socialist Party during the years of fascist dictatorship, and in 1934 the party concluded an agreement on united action with the Communist Party of Italy. The agreement was the basis for co-operation between the two parties during and after the Second World War. A Right-wing group led by Saragat, which served the interest of American imperialism, withdrew from the Socialist Party in January 1947 and formed the Socialist Party of Italian Workers.    [p.61]

      [22] The Blanquists were followers of the French revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-81). The classics of Marxism-Leninism, while regarding Blanqui as an outstanding revolutionary and adherent of socialism, criticized him for his sectarianism and conspiratorial methods of activity. "Blanquism," wrote Lenin, "is a theory that repudiates the class struggle. Blanquism expects that mankind will be emancipated from wage slavery, not by the class struggle of the proletariat, but through a conspiracy of a small minority of intellectuals" (see V. I. Lenin, "The Congress Summed Up," Collected Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol.,X, p. 360).    [p.62]

      [23] Frederick Engels, "Emigré Literature. II. The Program of the Bianquist Emigré from the Commune" (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Ger. ed., Berlin, Vol. XVIII, p. 533).    [p.63]

      [24] Lenin is referring to the passage in Engels' letter to P. A. Sorge dated November 29, 1886, which criticizes the German Social-Democratic emigrants in America on the ground that for them theory "is a credo [creed] and not a guide to action" (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, International Publishers, New York, 1942, p. 450).    [p.68]

      [25] N. G. Chernyshevsky, Selected Economic Writings, Russ. ed., 1948, Vol. II, p. 550.    [p.68]

      [26] The British Socialist Party was formed in 1911. It conducted Marxist propaganda and agitation and was described by Lenin as "not opportunist,"

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    and as "really independent of the Liberals." Its small membership and isolation from the masses lent the party a somewhat sectarian character.
        During the first world imperialist war, two trends were revealed in the Party: one openly social-chauvinist, headed by Henry Hyndman, and the other internationalist, headed by Albert Inkpin and others. In April 1916 a split took place. Hyndman and his supporters found themselves in the minority and withdrew from the party. From that mornent the internationalists assumed the leadership of the British Socialist Party, which later initiated the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920.    [p.77]

      [27] The Socialist Labour Party was organized in 1903 by a group of Left Social-Democrats who broke away from the Social-Democratic Federation. The South Wales Socialist Society -- a small group made up predominantly of Welsh miners. The Workers' Socialist Federation -- a small organization which grew out of the Women's Suffrage League and was made up mainly of women.
        These "Left" organizations refused to join the Communist Party of Great Britain when it was founded (the inaugural congress was held on July 31-August 1, 1920), because its program included a clause calling for participation in parliamentary elections and affiliation to the Labour Party. The South Wales Socialist Society and the Workers' Socialist Federation (which had changed their names to Communist Labour Party and Communist Party respectively) merged with the Communist Party of Great Britain at the latter's congress in January 1921, and the party took the name of United Communist Party of Great Britain. The leadership of the Socialist Labour Party refused to join.    [p.77]

      [28] The Dreyfus case -- the framed-up trial organized in 1894 by the reactionary-royalist military clique in France against Dreyfus, a Jewish officer of the French General Staff. Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment on false charges of espionage and high treason. The widespread public campaign for revision of the verdict was marked by a bitter struggle between the republicans and royalists and resulted in Dreyfus' acquittal in 1906.    [p.103]

      [29] The Kapp-Luttwitz putsch -- an attempt at a counter-revolutionary coup d'etat in Germany, undertaken by Kapp, Luttwitz and other monarchists in March 1920. The plot was crushed within a few days thanks to the energetic action of the Berlin workers.    [p.115]

      [30] Augean stable means a place marked by a staggering accumulation of corruption and filth. According to a Greek legend the stable of Augeas was left unclean for 30 years until Hercules cleaned it in one day.    [p.117]

      [31] "Soviet "   "attorneys" -- collegiums of attorneys formed under the Soviets of Workers, Soldiers', Peasants' and Cossacks' Deputies in February 1918. They were abolished in October 1920.    [p.123]