Maxim Gorky February 1919
An Appeal to the World
Source: Maxim Gorki, “An Appeal to the World,” The Call, 6 February 1919, p.1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The war is finished, German imperialism is vanquished, and is forced to submit to the heavy punishment for its policy of brigandage. The German proletariat, tortured by war, exhausted by hunger, is obliged to pay dear for having submitted to the policy of its governing class. The victors, who but yesterday declared to the world that they caused the ruin of millions of human beings to gain victory for universal right and happiness, now force the German people to submit to an armistice ten times more harsh than the treaty of Brest-Litovsk – an armistice which menaces Germany with inevitable famine. Each day that passes the cynicism of the Imperialists’ inhuman policy becomes more evident, and increasingly threatens the peoples of Europe with new wars and new massacres. President Wilson, but yesterday the eloquent defender of the liberty of peoples and the rights of democracy, equips a powerful army “for the restoration of order” in revolutionary Russia; where the people already enjoy sovereign rights, where they have taken power into their own hands, and where they are endeavouring, as far as they can, to lay the foundation of a new State edifice. I have no wish to deny that this constructive work has often been accompanied by useless destruction. But the creative cultural work of the popular Russian Government, working under most difficult conditions, and at the price of heroic effort, is assuming a scope and form hitherto unknown in the history of humanity. This is no exaggeration. Lately I was an adversary of the Government, and I still disagree with it regarding its methods of work. But know that future historians when estimating the value of the work accomplished by the Russian workers in the course of one year, will not fail to admire the magnificence of their creative work in the domain of culture ....
Yes, it is true that side by side with this work, which is of world importance, great faults were committed, some unnecessary hardships were caused, but of what importance are these mistakes and hardships when compared with the frightful crime of the war; provoked by the clash of German and English Imperialism? Was it not just this war which aroused “the animal,” in all European countries and in the hearts of nations? Was it not this war which killed the conscience of men – as yet so feebly developed – and the slowly growing knowledge of the worth of life and true respect for work?
Is it in the name of a deficiency of culture in revolutionary Russia, is it in the name of the offences committed by the Russian revolution against humanity, is it in the name of a want of generosity by the Russian workers towards their class enemies – is it in the name or all this that the Imperialists of Europe and America are going to attack Revolutionary Russia? No, the position is not so complex, is not as idealistic as the writers of the Imperialist journals of England, France, America, and Japan would have us believe. It is much simpler. The Imperialists of the three continents are trying to create and to consolidate conditions and political institutions that will assure to them power over the will of the peoples. Thanks to the conditions whereby an insignificant minority can decide, without control, on the life and death of the majority, it is the minority which has led this insensate bloody butchery.
It would seem that all feeling and honest men throughout the world should now comprehend with perfect clarity the depth of gloom, the cruelties, the egoisms, hypocrisy and stupidity which rivet the foundations of the capitalist structure of the world. It would seem time, that all thinking and honest men should take cognisance of the fact that capitalism has lost its creative faculty, is an ugly relic of the past and an obstacle to the development of the world’s culture, that it incites enmity and hatred between individuals, families, classes and nations, and that the noble dream of fraternity amongst peoples cannot achieve reality. I do not deny the services rendered by capital to the labouring part of humanity, or that within the skin and blood of this social system it has created the preliminary conditions for a transition to new forms, a more complete, more just life of the community – for the transition to Socialism. But now sentence of death on capitalism is pronounced because this war has thrown the light of day on the incapacity, the want of humanity, the cruelties of the old system, the stupidity and rottenness of which has been demonstrated to all.
We Russians are a people quite justly considered as backward; a people without traditions, and on that account more daring and rebellious, not chained to the past; we are the first resolutely to clear for ourselves the path leading to the destruction of the capitalist State. We are convinced that in this memorable work we can appeal for the sympathy and active support of the labouring classes of the world, and to all who before the war severely and justly criticised the social conditions under which the peoples lived. If these criticisms had a real meaning, then all honest men in Europe and America must recognise our right to direct our lives in our own way. If any part of the intellectual working class is really interested in the solution of the great social question they must set themselves boldly against those who try to re-establish the old order of things, against those who wish to drown the Russian revolution in blood, and who hope to subjugate and pillage Russia just as, before the war, they pillaged Turkey and China, and as they now prepare to pillage Germany. This is the real desire of Imperialism – this its sacred mission. The leader of the campaign against Russia is Woodrow Wilson. Vladimir Lenin holds the torch of the Russian Revolution firmly in his hands, and it sheds its light over all the world. The proletariat and the intellectual workers must choose and decide between the defenders of the old order, the representatives of the system of government by the minority over the majority, the old system without a future and the destroyer of all culture, and the foremost initiator of the new ideals and social sentiments who personifies for all workers the ideas of happiness, of free work, and the fraternity of peoples.
Come and march forward with us towards a new life for the birth of which we work without a thought for ourselves, sparing neither men nor things. In our wanderings and our sufferings, in the great joy of our labour, and in the passionate hope of progress, we leave all our acts to the honest judgment of history. Come with us in our fight against the old order, in our work for the creation of a new order. Forward for liberty and the splendour of life.