CATCHING FOXES; LEVI AND SERRATI
The following is said to be the most reliable method of catching foxes. The fox that is being tracked is surrounded at a certain distance with a rope which is set at a little height from the snow-covered ground and to which are attached little red flags. Fearing this obvious]y artificial human device, the fox will emerge only if and where an opening is allowed in this fence of flags; and the hunter waits for it at this opening. One would think that caution would be the most marked trait of an animal that is hunted by everybody.
But it turns out that in this case, too, "virtue unduly prolonged" is a fault. The fox is caught precisely because it is over-cautious.
I must confess to a mistake I made at the Third Congress of the Communist International also as a result of overcaution. At that Congress I was on the extreme Right flank. I am convinced that it was the only correct stand to take, for a very large (and influential) group of delegates, headed by many German, Hungarian and Italian comrades, occupied an inordinately "Left" and incorrectly Left position, and far too often, instead of soberly weighing up the situation that was not very favourable for immediate and direct revolutionary action, they vigorously indulged in the waving of little red flags. Out of caution and a desire to prevent this undoubtedly wrong deviation towards Leftism from giving a false direction to the whole tactics of the Communist International, I did all I could to defend Levi. I suggested that perhaps he had lost his head (I did not deny that he had lost his head) because he had been very frightened by the mistakes of the Lefts; and I argued that there had been cases of Communists who had lost their heads "finding" them again afterwards. Even while admitting, under pressure of the Lefts, that Levi was a Menshevik, I said that such an admission did not settle the question. For example, the whole history of the fifteen years of struggle between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in Russia (1903-17) proves, as the three Russian revolutions also prove, that, in general, the Mensheviks were absolutely wrong and that they were, in fact, agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement. This fact is incontrovertible. But this incontrovertible fact does not eliminate the other fact that in individual cases the Mensheviks were right and the Bolsheviks wrong, as, for example, on the question of boycotting the Stolypin Duma in 1907.
Eight months have elapsed since the Third Congress of the Communist International. Obviously, our controversy with the Lefts is now outdated; events have settled it. It has been proved that I was wrong about Levi, because he has definitely shown that he took the Menshevik path not accidentally, not temporarily, not by "going too far" in combating the very dangerous mistakes of the Lefts, but deliberately and permanently, because of his very nature.
Instead of honestly admitting that it was necessary for him to appeal for readmission to the party after the Third Congress of the Communist International, as every person who had temporarily lost his head when irritated by some mistakes committed by the Lefts should have done, Levi began to play sly tricks on the party, to try to put a spoke in its wheel, i.e., actually he began to serve those agents of the bourgeoisie, the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals. Of course, the German Communists were quite right when they retaliated to this recently by expelling several more gentlemen from their party, those who were found to be secretly helping Paul Levi in this noble occupation.
The development of the German and Italian Communist Parties since the Third Congress of the Comintern has shown that the mistakes committed by the Lefts at that Congress have been noted and are being rectified -- little by little, slowly, but steadily; the decisions of the Third Congress of the Communist International are being loyally carried out. The process of transforming the old type of European parliamentary party -- which in fact is reformist and only slightly tinted with revolutionary colours -- into a new type of party, into a genuinely revolutionary, genuinely Communist Party, is an extremely arduous one. This is demonstrated most clearly, perhaps, by the example of France. The process of changing the type of Party work in everyday life, of getting it out of the humdrum channel; the process of converting the Party into the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat without permitting it to become divorced from the masses, but, on the contrary, by linking it more and more closely with them, imbuing them with revolutionary consciousness and rousing them for the revolutionary struggle, is a very difficult, but most important one. If the European Communists do not take advantage of the intervals (probably very short) between the periods of particularly acute revolutionary battles -- such as took place in many capitalist countries of Europe and America in 1921 and the beginning of 1922 -- for the purpose of bringing about this fundamental, internal, profound reorganisation of the whole structure of their Parties and of their work, they will be committing the gravest of crimes. Fortunately, there is no reason to fear this. The quiet, steady, calm, not very rapid, but profound work
of creating genuine Communist Parties, genuine revolutionary vanguards of the proletariat, has begun and is proceeding in Europe and America.
Political lessons taken even from the observation of such a trivial thing as catching foxes prove to be useful. On the one hand, excessive caution leads to mistakes. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that if we give way to mere "sentiment" or indulge in the waving of little red flags instead of soberly weighing up the situation, we may commit irreparable mistakes; we may perish where there is absolutely no need to, although the difficulties are great.
Paul Levi now wants to get into the good graces of the bourgeoisie -- and, consequently, of its agents, the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals -- by republishing precisely those writings of Rosa Luxemburg in which she was wrong. We shall reply to this by quoting two lines from a good old Russian fable: "Eagles may at times fly lower than hens, but hens can never rise to the height of eagles." Rosa Luxemburg was mistaken on the question of the independence of Poland; she was mistaken in 1903 in her appraisal of Menshevism; she was mistaken on the theory of the accumulation of capital; she was mistaken in July 1914, when, together with Plekhanov, Vandervelde, Kautsky and others, she advocated unity between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks; she was mistaken in what she wrote in prison in 1918 (she corrected most of these mistakes at the end of 1918 and the beginning of 1919 after she was released). But in spite of her mistakes she was -- and remains for us -- an eagle. And not only will Communists all over the world cherish her memory, but her biography and her complete works (the publication of which the German Communists are inordinately delaying, which can only be partly excused by the tremendous losses they are suffering in their severe struggle) will serve as useful manuals for training many generations of Communists all over the world. "Since August 4, 1914, German Social-Democracy has been a stinking corpse" -- this statement will make Rosa Luxemburg's name famous in the history of the international working class movement. And, of course, in the backyard of the working-class movement, among the dung heaps, hens like Paul Levi, Scheidemann, Kautsky and all that fraternity will
cackle over the mistakes committed by the great Communist. To every man his own.
As for Serrati, he is like a bad egg, which bursts with a loud noise and with an exceptionally -- pungent smell. Is it not too rich to get carried at "his" congress a resolution that declares readiness to submit to the decision of the Congress of the Communist International, then to send old Lazzari to the Congress, and finally, to cheat the workers as brazenly as a horse-coper? The Italian Communists who are training a real party of the revolutionary proletariat in Italy will now be able to give the working masses an object lesson in political chicanery and Menshevism. The useful, repelling effect of this will not be felt immediately, not without many repeated object lessons, but it will be felt. The victory of the Italian Communists is assured if they do not isolate themselves from the masses, if they do not lose patience in the hard work of exposing all of Serrati's chicanery to rank-and-file workers in a practical way, if they do not yield to the very easy and very dangerous temptation to say "minus a " whenever Serrati says "a", if they steadily train the masses to adopt a revolutionary world outlook and prepare them for revolutionary action, if they also take practical advantage of the practical and magnificent (although costly) object lessons of fascism.
Levi and Serrati are not characteristic in themselves; they are characteristic of the modern type of the extreme Left wing of petty-bourgeois democracy, of the camp of the "other side", the camp of the international capitalists, the camp that is against us. The whole of "their" camp, from Gompers to Serrati, are gloating, exulting, or else shedding crocodile tears over our retreat, our "descent", our New Economic Policy. Let them gloat, let them perform their clownish antics. To every man his own. But we shall not harbour any illusions or give way to despondency. If we are not afraid of admitting our mistakes, not afraid of making repeated efforts to rectify them -- we shall reach the very summit. The cause of the international bloc from Gompers to Serrati is doomed.