A. Lozovsky
Marx and the Trade Unions

Chapter IX
Pseudo-Marxists and the Trade Union Critics of Marx

What is the chief difference between Marxism and the pre-Marxist and near-Marxist theories? What is the main difference between Marxism and pseudo-Marxism? This difference was defined by Lenin in his famous work State and Revolution. Here Lenin writes:

Only he is a Marxist who extends the acceptance of the class struggle to the acceptance of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Herein lies the most profound difference between a Marxist and a mediocre petty (and also—big) bourgeois. On this touchstone a real understanding and acceptance of Marxism must be tested. (1)

If this is the angle from which we consider the critics of Marx hailing from the trade union camp, we see that precisely the dictatorship of the proletariat was the stumbling-block for all open and concealed enemies of revolutionary Marxism. This does not mean that they tried seriously, on the basis of actual data, to deny this corner-stone of the teachings of Marx. No, the trade union critics of Marx at first passed by this question, leaving this task to the “pure politicians.” What went on in the heads of many trade unionists was formulated by Eduard Bernstein, the real spiritual father of social-fascism. Bernstein, as early as 1899, came out with his Prerequisites of Socialism, which should be duly dubbed the holy book of modem Social-Democracy. In this book of Bernstein’s we find both industrial democracy, the growing into socialism by means of social reforms, and the democratisation of industry through the medium of the trade unions, etc. Bernstein, in writing his book, leaned for support on the trade unions, while the trade unionists, turning more and more away from Marx, became encouraged and openly recognised Bernstein as their theoretician and leader.

Before Bernstein published his book the trade union pseudo-Marxists concealed their disagreement with Marx; but after the publication of the book, it became the fashion among the leaders of the German trade unions to “criticise” Marx. The trade unions in most cases did not theorise: they simply revised Marx in their day-to-day work, they distorted his teachings in practice and turned the elementals of Marxism on the rôle of the trade unions under the capitalist State upside down. If we examine historically the development of the anti-Marxian views of the trade unionists, we see that on the following questions they pursued the following lines:

(1) The theory of the class struggle “is, itself,” correct; however, it loses its significance with the development of the trade unions and the establishment of democracy; (2) Revolution is an obsolete conception, it corresponds to a lower level of social development; the democratic State precludes revolutions and the revolutionary struggle; (3) Democracy assures the working class the peaceful passing over from capitalism to socialism, and therefore the dictatorship of the proletariat is not and cannot be on the order of the day; (4) The theory of impoverishment held good at one time, but now it has become obsolete; (5) During the epoch of Marx it was perhaps true that the leading rôle in the trade unions belonged to the party. But to-day, only party-political neutrality can ensure the effective development of the trade union movement; (6) During the epoch of Marx strikes had to be considered perhaps as one of the most important weapons of struggle, but now the trade unions have outgrown this, etc.

Thus, everything led to the point that Marxism had become out of date, that it must be re-examined, corrected and supplemented. The work of “correcting” Marxism was divided between the Social-Democrats and the trade unions. Before the war this was done under the slogan of the necessity of “enriching and developing Marxism on the basis of the theories of Marx.”

The German and Austrian varieties were considered the most Marxist trade union movements. For many years they made use of Marx’s name. However, they did with Marx just what German Social-Democracy had done. About this Lenin eloquently writes the following:

What is now happening to Marx’s doctrine has, in the course of history, often happened to the doctrines of other revolutionary thinkers and leaders of oppressed classes struggling for emancipation. During the lifetimes of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes have visited relentless persecution on them and received their teaching with the most savage hostility, the most furious hatred, the most ruthless campaign of lies and slanders. After their death, attempts are made to turn them into harmless icons, canonise them, and surround their names with a certain halo for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping them, while at the same time emasculating and vulgarising the real essence of their revolutionary theories and blunting their revolutionary edge. At the present time the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labour movement are co-operating in this work of adulterating Marxism. They omit, obliterate and distort the revolutionary side of its teachings, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is or seems acceptable to the bourgeoisie. All the social-chauvinists are now “Marxists”—joking aside! And more and more do German bourgeois professors, erstwhile specialists in the demolition of Marx, speak now of the ‘national-German’ Marx, who, they aver, has educated the labour unions which are so splendidly organised for conducting a predatory war. (2)

The trade unionists of Germany outwardly paid homage to Marx, at the time when the whole theory and practice of the trade union movement of Germany was diametrically opposed to the theory and practice of Marx. The more powerful German capitalism grew, the more rapidly its influence spread over new markets, the more rapid was the ideological rapprochement between German capitalists and the leaders of the German trade union movement. It will suffice to recollect the action of the trade unions of Germany in 1905 against a May First Strike, against political strikes, for neutrality of the trade unions, and generally the actions of the German trade unions during the course of many years against every attempt to raise concretely the question of the struggle against war; it will suffice to remember the imperialist tendencies which, even prior to the war, had been openly manifested both in the ranks of the Social-Democratic Party and the trade unions, to draw the conclusion that for the Free Trade Unions of Germany Marxism served only as a sign-board.

The war exposed precisely what the pseudo-Marxists had tried to conceal. Whereas Marx, in 1848, wrote that “the working men have no country,” that no one “can take from them what they have not got,” (3) the German “Marxists” found their fatherland in imperialist Germany and became agitators and organisers of the working masses to speed on the victory of this imperialist fatherland, became the ideological purveyors of cannon fodder for the front.

Marx spoke and wrote about the class struggle. He devoted his life to turning the working class into a class for itself, to wresting the working class away from the bourgeoisie. The German “Marxists” replaced the class struggle by class collaboration, created a whole theory about “participation in the management of capitalist economy.”

It will be the task of the trade unions [writes Nestriepke, an apologist of the German reformist trade union movement] to demand as a matter of principle that the factory workers and office employees working at the enterprise concerned be given the right to participate in determining questions of employing and discharging workers, this through corresponding regulations, through schooling, influencing individual workers and the factory workers. At the same time they must also see to it that there be no abuse of the right to participate in the management which will impair the profitableness of the enterprise and will injure the real tasks of the enterprise. (4)

The trade unions therefore are turned into custodians of capitalist surplus value under the guise of the “participation of the workers in the economic and technical management of the enterprises.”

All the teachings of Marx on the class struggle, that the trade unions are organs of struggle against capital, have been replaced by the theory of industrial and economic democracy and equality between Labour and Capital, allowing private ownership of the means of production to remain in the hands of the capitalists. If the working class “participates” in organising the national economy, it will be interested in preserving the capitalist economy, and in defending it against destructive forces. This is how the trade unions become allies of the bourgeoisie, by suppressing the revolutionary labour movement, by suppressing all who revolt against the power of Capital.

While Marx raised the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the German “Marxists” for many years have tried and are trying to prove that the dictatorship of the proletariat is an invention of Moscow and that the only form of government acceptable to the trade unions is bourgeois democracy. While Marx proved that the State was a weapon of oppression of one class by another, the Austro-German “Marxists” who headed the trade unions of these countries have been trying to prove that the democratic State stands above classes, that it is and in future will be the arbiter in the conflicts between Capital and Labour.

Marx proved that only by obdurate combat, by developing all forms of struggle, especially strikes, will the proletariat be able to gain something from the bourgeoisie. The German “Marxists” argue that this theory has become out-of-date, that “strikes are always risky,” that “strike calls are much more dangerous [for whom?—A. L.] in a country where modem industry is developed, with its large-scale enterprises, employers’ associations, etc.”; that “the zest for struggle among the modern trade unions [read “among the trade union bureaucrats.”—A. L.]} acting in conditions of present-day developed economy, will be considerably less,” that “the economic struggle in a developed system of economy is in the first instance built on negotiating, probing and waiting tactics,” (5) and, finally, this pearl of pearls, taken from the tactical arsenal of Legien:

The more careful an organisation is in putting forward new demands, the more categorically it fights for these demands and the less frequently it applies the extreme measure of strikes, the sooner it will succeed in winning victories even without a struggle. (6)

Thus, it appears that Marx was wrong when he considered that the working class would not be able to win anything without a struggle. Nestriepke, together with the loyal German trade unionists, rejects all of this. They, mind you, are anxious to win victories without struggle! The famous military writer Clausewitz wrote that “no equivalent can replace a battle.” But the German trade unionists have invented a new method of trying to win victories [for whom?—A. L.] without a struggle. He who doubts the miraculous results of this tactic (victory without a struggle!) should look into the history of Germany and he will convince himself that fourteen years of such “victories” have led to Hitler.

In order to see clearly where these “Marxists” landed, let us give a few more examples. At the Hamburg Congress of the German trade unions (1928), the official speaker, Naphtali, solemnly declared that the “trade union movement has succeeded in opposing and overcoming the decisive capitalist tendency towards impoverishment” and that “we now witness an upsurge of the working class.” Tarnov, the theoretician of the A.D.G.B. (All German Trade Union Federation), said:

We are realistic statesmen. Our line differs from the old viewpoint which used to dominate the labour movement and which was able to dominate there precisely because the once correct viewpoint of the tendency of capitalism has to-day become petrified (1) ideology. The old position [that is the position of Marx.—A. L.] was essentially a stand of resignedness.... We are instilling into the working masses more optimistic views … than those formerly held on the condition of the workers. (7)

Indeed, Tamov is even “better” than Nestriepke. The old conception of Marx was: fight and you will win something. The new conception states: don’t fight, wait, and you will get much more. Finally, in order to “crown the edifice,” let us give one more dictum from Tarnov’s book, Why Be Poor?

Poverty is no economic necessity, but a social ailment, which doubtlessly can be cured even within the framework of capitalist economy.

Exactly! Why be poor if it is possible to go over to the side of the bourgeoisie and live in clover. Tarnov’s book and its contents remind one of the American advertisements, “Why Have Corns?”, in which the honourable public is informed that this ailment can be cured “within the framework of the capitalist order” for fifty cents. The A.D.G.B. has a great many of these corn-cure theoreticians, each of whom has solved the problem of poverty for himself.

In the circles of the reformist trade union bureaucrats in Germany an anecdote is told which Professor Erik Noelting related amid friendly laughter at a congress of the wood-workers of Germany. “The Swedish political-economist Sven Hollander once came to Germany for the purpose of visiting the house in Treves where Karl Marx was born. To his great surprise, in Marx’s home town, not one of the passers-by could tell him where that house was. Roving through the streets he found a house which had a red flag; he thought that this surely must be the house in which Karl Marx was born, all the more so since there was a sign on it with the inscription, “Trade Union House of Treves.” When he entered, one of the employees informed him: “No, this is not the house where Marx was born; this is the trade union house. The house where Marx was born is too small for the trade unions; it is situated not far from here.”

Having told this “interesting” anecdote, Professor Noelting commented on it in the following words:

This anecdote excellently shows the close proximity which even to-day exists between the trade unions and the teachings of Marx. On the other hand, it shows that the trade unions were compelled to go beyond Marx.... There is a transitional stage between capitalism and socialism which I believe is characterised by three features: politically—by coalition governments, juridically—by labour rights, economically—by industrial and economic democracy. The trade unions in all of their actions logically presuppose that capitalism has elastic walls, and that under the conditions of capitalism a considerable improvement and a rise to a higher level are possible. (8)

Now everything is clear. They have “gone beyond” Marx. The house of Marx was too small for the German trade union bureaucrats. Indeed! The house of Stinnes, this “go-getter” of a business man who grew fat on the war and speculation, is much bigger. It is not an accident that Stinnes called one of his steamers Karl Legien, for many years the leader of the reformist trade union movement of Germany. The house of Hindenburg, Brüning and Hitler is much bigger. It is not an accident that Leipart, President of the A.D.G.B., offered his services as a lackey in this “rich man’s house.” The home of Borsig, President of the Manufacturers’ Association of Germany, is much bigger, and so Herr Leipart sent a telegram of condolence to the Manufacturers’ Association on the occasion of the death of Borsig, this “noble man.” If all this is “Marxism,” then what is shameless infamy and treachery ? How can this complete renunciation of the most elementary principles of the labour movement be explained? By fear of the masses, fear of the revolution. This fear of the masses which overwhelms the German trade union bureaucrats came to haunt them particularly after Hitler came to power. The bulk of the membership was perturbed, they demanded a united front with the Communists. But what did the A.D.G.B. do, while it still had millions of workers in its ranks? On February 20, 1933, it forwarded a letter to Hindenburg in which these “labour leaders” implored the Field Marshal to take a stand in defence of the workers. This complaint stated in part:

We appeal to you as President of the German Reich, to you who are in duty bound and are willing to protect the constitution. We appeal to you, as the German organisation in whose ranks the major part of those who fought at the front are united. These millions, among whom there are adherents of the most diverse political parties, did not fight and shed their blood for Germany during the World War to let responsible German authorities tell them fifteen years later that they do not belong to the forces that are building the state, that they are not a part of the nation’s population. No one in Germany has so exalted a position that he may dare charaterise the World War veterans—regardless of the political party to which he may belong—and their organisations as second-rate Germans....

We hope and trust that you, Mr. President, the military leader during the World War, will take action with all the means at your disposal against this dishonour done to millions of those who fought at the front. (9)

This entreaty represents the most shameful document ever issued even by the German reformist trade unions. First of all, to complain to Hindenburg about Hitler is like complaining about the devil to his grandmother, and then the idea of parading their military-patriotic merits as an argument against the fascist raids creates a pitiful impression, indeed. This is how the “Marxist” leaders of the German trade unions descended from one capitulation to another, and finally knelt grovelling before the very feet of General Hindenburg.

How can all of this be explained ? By fear of the masses, fear of the revolution.

Lassalle once said about the progressive party of his period: “Its principal and basic rule is anything but revolution from below, better despotism from above.” (10) This “principal and basic rule” is also the line adhered to by the “Marxists” of the Second and Amsterdam Internationals.

While German and Austrian Marxists sabotaged the teachings of Marx, passing from quiet methods to open and bolder attacks, flaunting their Marxist frocks by force of tradition, anarchism and the revolutionary syndicalism which it bred waged an open war against Marx and his teachings. The anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists claimed that the opportunist actions of the German, French and other socialists were the result of their Marxist viewpoint. Opportunism and revisionism were represented to the masses as Marxism. This criticism from the “Left” and the bitter experiences of the opportunist policy of the Socialist parties in the Latin countries (France, Spain) caused some sections of the workers to have no confidence in Marxism generally. Among the critics of Marxism there was one group in France which tried to “purge” Marx and turn him into a theoretician of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union movement. Attempts to associate Marx with anarcho-syndicalism were made by Lagardelle, Sorel, Bert, Arturo Labriola, Leon, etc. In his book, La décomposition du Marxisme, George Sorel, the most talented of them, declares that he wants to take the Marxism of Marx, but not of his commentators of the type of Bernstein, etc. Such a line could have been welcomed if, while writing a correct but inadequate criticism of Bernstein, he had not turned Marx into a sort of Proudhon. Here is what Sorel writes:

One might say about Marxism that it is a “philosophy of the hands” and not a “philosophy of the brain,” considering that it aims only at one thing—to convince the working class that the whole of its future depends upon the class struggle; Marxism wants to lead it along the path on which it, while organising for the struggle, will be able to find ways and means of getting along without entrepreneurs.... On the other hand, Marxism must not be confused with political parties, even with the most revolutionary, for the latter are forced to function as bourgeois parties, to change their position in dependence upon election considerations, and when necessary to make compromise with other groups which have a similar electorate; whereas Marxism is invariably imbued solely with thought for absolute revolution.

Several years ago it seemed as if the time for Marxism had passed, and that it, together with many other philosophies, would now take its place in the necropolis of deceased gods. Only an historic impulse could restore it to life; for this end it was necessary that the proletariat organise with purely revolutionary intentions, i.e., that it completely dissociate itself from the bourgeoisie....

…And now it turned out that the learned doctors of Marxism felt lost in the face of an organisation, built on the principle of the class struggle, interpreted in the strictest sense of the word [he refers to syndicates.—A. L.]. In order to find a way out of the quandary, these doctors indignantly spoke of a new attack of the anarchists, in view of the fact that many of the anarchists, on the advice of Pelloutier, had joined the trade unions and the labour exchanges....

The ‘New School’ … did not claim it was creating a new party, which would compete with the others for their working-class adherents. Its aspiration was a different one. It was to understand the nature of the movement, which seemed unintelligible to all. It took an altogether different road from that of Bernstein; little by little it rejected all formulas, those of utopianism and those of Blanquism, and thus purged traditional Marxism of all that was not properly Marxian and aimed to preserve only that which comprised, in its opinion, the core of this doctrine, only that which assures the glory of Marx.

The theory of catastrophe (which scandalises the socialists who desire to combine Marxism with the practices of democratic politicians) is absolutely compatible with the general strike, which for the revolutionary syndicalists marks the advent of the future society. (11)

This is all the criticism from the “Left.” True that Marxism cannot be confused with parliamentarianism; true that according to Marxism the future depends upon the class struggle (not upon the conception but upon the struggle!), but it is thrice wrong to say that the fact that the anarchists are joining the trade unions, that anarcho-syndicalist theory and practice are being created, assures the glory of Marx; it is wrong to say that Marx’s theory of catastrophe (Zusammenbruchstheorie) and the anarchist general strike, are one and the same. Marx speaks about the struggle for power, about the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists have partly consciously and partly unconsciously overlooked this real revolutionary theory of Marxism and criticised its falsification instead of Marxism: what Sorel calls the disintegration of Marxism is the disintegration of the critics of Marx. The attempts of Sorel to pour some anarcho-syndicalist blood into the veins of Marxism have failed. Neo-Marxism proved to be no more than an electrical hash. The fact is that Sorel and his pupils have not understood the essence of Marx’s teachings, have not understood the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat raised by Marx.

What brought revolutionary syndicalism closer to revolutionary Marxism? The protest against parliamentary cretinism, the protest against collaboration with the bourgeoisie. What conclusions did revolutionary syndicalism draw from this? That the main evil lies in the State and parliamentary elections, and that if we refuse to participate in parliamentary elections, and reject all dictatorship, the problem is settled. What conclusions did revolutionary Marxism draw? It considered it necessary to utilise Parliament and parliamentary elections, in a real revolutionary, Bolshevik manner, to destroy the bourgeois State and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat for the entire transition period. By rejecting political action, Sorel denied the necessity of a political party of the proletariat and came to the essential anarcho-syndicalist thesis: the trade union is sufficient unto itself. Rejecting the State and the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Sorel came to reject also the armed uprising; in the place of uprising he called for the strike with “folded arms.” Not understanding the course and tendency of the development of capitalism, Sorel created the theory of “social peace”: he denies the necessity of violence, thus filling in the gap of his theory. His companions-in-arms and pupils, screening themselves behind “Left” phrases, preached reformist ideas. “The revolution,” Arturo Labriola writes, “issues from the womb of the economic process itself, from consecutive changes.” Lagardelle intends to replace “capitalist right” with new right within the framework of capitalist society, while Edward Bert sees in Proudhon, just as in Marx, the “theoretical forerunner” of revolutionary syndicalism. We have seen how Marx “combined” his theories with those of Proudhon. The synthesis of the proletarian theories of Marx and the petty-bourgeois theory of Proudhon could not but lead to theoretical confusion and a politically incorrect line. We see the same in pre-war French anarcho-syndicalism. Anarcho-syndicalism, disporting itself in the gay-coloured frocks of “terrifying Leftism,” during the imperialist war followed the socialist and trade union internationals, followed the war chariot of imperialism. This is how the ideological and political communion of ideas between the “Right” and “Left” revisionists of Marx was proved. The honour of Marxism and the international labour movement was saved not by the much-vaunted revolutionariness of the anarcho-syndicalists, but by Bolshevism, which “was raised on the granite base of Marxism” (Lenin).

History has made it possible for us to test in the crucible of revolutionary experience: revolutionary Marxism (U.S.S.R.), reformism (Germany) and anarcho-syndicalism (Spain). Here are three revolutions in which it was possible, on the basis of experience, to test the correctness of their theories and policies. We know that the U.S.S.R. victoriously completed its first Five-Year Plan, thanks to the consistent application of revolutionary-Marxist, Bolshevik policy. We know that fourteen years of social-democratic policy have reduced the proletariat of Germany to unheard-of misery, to the bloody reign of the fascist baton, to a terrific offensive against the working class. Finally, we know that the anarcho-syndicalists of Spain, who led considerable sections of the Spanish proletarian masses, are leading the working class of that country from one defeat to another, that part of the anarcho-syndicalists openly supports the bourgeois republic, while another part, by its policy, splits the workers’ ranks, and by refusing to prepare the masses for the struggle for power through Soviets, facilitates the task of the Spanish bourgeoisie of brutally suppressing the workers’ and peasants’ movement. Such are the facts, facts that are stubborn, indisputable. What is the value, then, of the lamentations against Marxism uttered by the central organ of the anarcho-syndicalist National Confederation of Labour in Spain, the Solidaridad Obrera? Here is what this paper writes:

Social-Democracy, called to-day social-fascism by its Communist sons, is the specific product of Marxism; Communism, whether it likes it or not, is the legitimate son of this social-fascism. They are twins to such an extent that in those places where the Social-Democrats apply revolutionary phraseology, as in Austria, for example, Communism cannot exist because it is deprived of its basis, of its phrases. (12)

This is how far this dexterous anarchist went. The Social-Democrats are Marxists, the Communists are Marxists, consequently the Communists and Social-Democrats are one and the same. This argument reminds one of the famous “mathematical” formula that “the half-dead are equal to the half-alive, consequently, the dead are equal to the living.” No, Sr. Orabon, even in Spain you will not succeed in mixing up in one heap those who stand on opposite sides of the barricades, you will not succeed in throwing on to one heap the revolutionary Marxists and the reformists, who fight one another in armed conflict. You had better prove, not in words, but in deeds, that you really know how to defeat the bourgeoisie. You claim that the “dictatorship of the proletariat really means only one more oligarchy”; your friend Chelso in this same paper expresses surprise that “our brothers in their liberation struggle base themselves upon the low and artificial ideology of dogmatic, out-of-date Marxism”; Maxim Libert also in the same paper informs the Spanish workers of the “influence of Red imperialism, created under the fire of Bolshevik sham revolutionariness,” and that “there is no marked difference between the Caesarean conception of the king (Louis XIV) and the State Jacobinism of the Soviet dictator (Lenin).”

What can be said about this invective against Bolshevism? Only one thing—that the anarchists see no difference between a dictatorship that shoots landlords and capitalists and a dictatorship that shoots workers. Inasmuch as the anarcho-syndicalists in their attacks upon the Comintern and the R.I.L.U. chiefly come out against the dictatorship of the proletariat, or, as this same Libert calls it, “the drill-ground dictatorship,” we again raise the question: why have the anarcho-syndicalists, who lay claim to the title of revolutionaries, not been able to deal one serious blow to the Spanish bourgeoisie, despite the absolutely splendid heroism, extraordinary self-sacrifice and exemplary militancy of the Spanish proletariat? One can spout from morning to night against Marxism, without being in the least convincing. We know why this happened and we will strain every effort in order to make this known to every Spanish worker. We shall explain to the Spanish workers that not only the reformists but also the Anarcho-Syndicalists are responsible for their defeats. How can they defeat the bourgeoisie, if people in the central organ of the National Confederation of Labour express “profound” ideas like the following:

The fractions of State socialism, as is the case in Russia to-day, desire to consolidate political power, in order afterwards to destroy it again, according to their own statements. Anarchism, on the contrary, smashes it and scatters it despite the green revolutionaries who took up philosophy in the universities of Moscow; without such preliminary precedent the present social revolution will be impossible. An unbridgeable abyss exists between the revolution fought for by the parties (i.e., the Communist Party) and that which the National Confederation of Labour aims at. Ours belongs to the present, while the revolution of State socialism belongs to the past. With the Russian revolution the cycle of party revolutions has ended. (13)

If a revolution of the type of the October Revolution is the last, what kind of a revolution do the Anarcho-Syndicalists of Spain promise to the international proletariat? Do they think that the German proletariat in its struggle against Hitler must not take lessons from the Bolsheviks, who have smashed their bourgeoisie, but must take their lessons from the anarchists, who are leading the proletariat from one defeat to another? Must the proletariat follow the legacy of the Paris Commune, create a new type of State and do just what the Bolsheviks have been doing ever since 1917 until this day, or should it follow the example of the Bakuninists of 1873 and Anarcho-Syndicalists of 1931-33? What makes the anarchists believe that the workers in the capitalist countries will prefer defeat to victory? There really is an impassable gulf between such viewpoints and communism, but there is no gulf between the anarchist workers and communism. Of this fact the anarchist leaders are convincing themselves in practice, as they are daily losing influence over great sections of workers who have followed them heretofore. We shall have to dwell also on the joint attack by the reformists and Anarcho-Syndicalists of all shades and colours upon the leading rôle of the Party in the trade union movement, and the effort to use the name of Karl Marx for these ends. For the last sixty years the Anarcho-Syndicalists and reformists have been arguing that Marx advocated neutrality. The occasion for this was an alleged interview given by Marx to Haman, a metal worker of Hanover, who in 1869 published the following concerning this pretended “interview”:

If the trade unions really want to accomplish their task, they must never associate themselves with any political unions or become dependent upon them in any way. If they do, it deals them a death blow. The trade unions are schools of socialism. In the trade unions the workers are trained to become socialists. Because there the daily struggle against capitalism takes place before their eyes. All political parties, no matter which, without exception enthuse the working masses only transiently, for a certain period of time. But the trade unions on the contrary form permanent contacts with the masses of workers; they can only really be a working-class party and act as a bulwark against the power of capital. The largest sections of the workers, regardless of party affiliation, have already come to the conclusion that the material conditions of the proletariat must be improved. Moreover, if the material conditions of the workers improve, they will be able to pay more attention to the upbringing of their children; their wives and children will not have to go to the factory; they will be able to care better for their own mental and physical training and will become socialists without being aware of it. (14)

This interview was doubtless “doctored” by Haman, for it contains a number of formulations absolutely different from anything Marx ever said or wrote during his whole life, and Marx was not one of those who write one thing and say another. Marx could not have said that “all political parties, no matter which, attract the working masses only for a certain period of time.” Then what was Haman’s scheme? Haman, interested evidently in the “independence” of the trade unions, “doctored” the original text by deleting Marx’s statement that this referred to bourgeois parties only, thus giving an altogether different political meaning to the statement and turning Marx into an “Independent.”

That this is so can be seen from the fact that Haman formulated the question he put to Marx as follows:

Must the trade unions depend mostly upon the political Verein (union), if they want to be able to exist?

From the way he put the question one can see what kind of an answer he wanted to get. This is why we have every reason to believe that Haman himself had so “edited” the interview that it acquired the content he desired. It is only strange that a Bolshevik Party such as the Communist Party of Germany should publish this interview in the form of a supplement to a popular edition of the basic works of Marx without any commentary whatsoever.

Thus Marx was turned into an “Independent.”

That is why the opportunist theory of the “independence” and “neutrality” of the non-Party organisations, which theory is the progenitor of independent parliamentarians and publicists who are isolated from the Party, and of narrow-minded trade unionists and co-operative society officials who have become petty bourgeois, is wholly incompatible with the theory and practice of Leninism. (15)

This is what revolutionary Marxism means by “independence” of the trade union movement. But the reformists and adherents of the theory of independence of the trade union movement in all countries stick to the falsified text, in order to prevent Bolshevism from penetrating the masses of organised and unorganised workers. All the practical and theoretical leaders of the reformist and Anarcho-Syndicalist trade union movement try to prove that they, “according to Marx,” ought to be independent of socialism, i.e., be dependent on capitalism. Hermann Müller, when quoting this interview, triumphantly declared: “Marx thus stood for strict neutrality of the trade unions.” (16) This unanimity of all anarcho-reformists, of all enemies of revolutionary Marxism alone must impel us to be on the alert and attentively examine just what doctoring has been done in this interview.

However, Marxism is too firm to be easily exploded by such distortions of Marx. This attempt, just like all others, failed miserably.

The extent to which this falsified quotation was seriously believed can be seen from the fact that so prominent a man as Daniel De Leon referred to this quotation of Marx in support of his development of the theory of the primacy of the economic over the political organisation. De Leon said that the conclusions to be drawn from these words of Marx are:

(1) … That a true political party of labour is bound to carry into the political arena the sound principles of the revolutionary economic organisation which it reflects.

(2) … That the revolutionary act of achieving the overthrow of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism is the function reserved to the economic organisation.

(3) … That the ‘physical force’ called for by the revolutionary act lies inherent in the economic organisations.

(4) … That the element of ‘force’ consists, not in a military or other organisation implying violence, but in the structure of the economic organisation.

(5) … That the economic organisation is not ‘transitory’ but is the present embryo of the future Government of the Republic of Labour. (17)

Daniel De Leon claims that all of these theses are the result of the interview that Marx gave to Haman. Even if Marx had really said what is ascribed to him by Haman, it would still have been impossible to draw the conclusions that De Leon drew. Daniel De Leon, this greatest and most revolutionary leader of pre-war American socialism, could not, despite all of his distinguished political, oratorical and literary ability, create a party and head the movement of the masses. Why? Because in the basic problems of party, trade union and class, he had a non-Marxist platform, though he thought that he was a real Marxist. Daniel De Leon clearly saw all the corruption and rottenness of the American Federation of Labour. He was the author of the phrase, “labour lieutenants of capitalism”; it was he who said in 1896 that “the American Federation of Labour is a steamer that never was seaworthy; and now she had run aground and been seized by a pirate crew.” It was he who said at the end of the nineteenth century that the leaders of the American Federation of Labour were not the Right wing of the labour movement, but the Left wing of the bourgeoisie. In spite of this, in spite of his good qualities as a revolutionary, he remained the leader of a sect only. The cause lies in his distortions of Marxism, although subjectively he wanted to apply the Marxist theories. This is how a false line revenges itself when applied to the most important problem of the relationship between the party, the trade unions and the class.

The Marxian industrial unions of England represent a rather interesting variety of the combination of Marxism and syndicalist sectarianism. The Marxian unionist in England considered that the trade unions would have to go under, and that the only path towards salvation was the one of creating a new trade union movement in the form of One Big Union, of the type of the Industrial Workers of the World in the United States. During the war and after the October Revolution, semi-Marxist, semi-syndicalist sentiments appeared among the trade unionists, who expressed their sympathies for the Bolsheviks, but themselves thought that the “main thing was the economic organisation and the economic struggle.” Marxian unionism turned into industrial unionism, which in its turn was split into two schools. One of them was of the opinion that the “political struggle was necessary in order gradually [!] to undermine the capitalist state régime.” The other group considered that “the working class must completely discard the political struggle and concentrate all forces on applying the weapon of the economic struggle.” Both of these schools “base their doctrine upon Marxian economics, upon the materialistic conception of history above all else.” What then is the result of this combination of emasculated Marxism and anarcho-syndicalism? G. D. H. Cole, who reports all these details, states further: “These two tendencies (Marxian unionism and guild socialism) between them never commanded the conscious adherence of more than an infinitesimal fraction of the workers in the trade unions.” (18) In view of the fact that infinitesimal fractions refer to mathematics and not to history, we do not intend to dwell on this variety of “Marxists.”

So-called theoreticians of all shades and colours wanted to utilise Marx against the Comintern and the Red International of Labour Unions. They “revised” Marxism, “purged” it, “diluted” it with reformist water and anarchist metaphysics, but nothing came of it. Marxism cannot tolerate any alien admixtures and ligatures. Even during Marx’s life scores and hundreds of persons tried to refute his theories, to break them into smithereens, but all of these learned men’s speculations lived but a day. After each such “refutation” Marx and Marxism rose higher and higher. Fifty years have now elapsed since the death of Marx, but despite these ceaseless “refutations” Marx stands to-day more impregnable than ever, while his assailants have long been forgotten.

As the bourgeoisie could not defeat Marxism by means of a frontal attack, it directed its attack upon Marx and Marxism from within the labour movement. True, this attack caused much harm to the international labour movement; however, in the struggle against these falsifiers, revolutionary Marxism—this integral, monolithic revolutionary doctrine—only gathered strength, became consolidated in consequence.

The question as to who really is the continuer and inheritor of the great cause of Marx is to be determined not by words but by deeds. Were we to judge by words, we should have to recognise as Marxists those who have substituted class collaboration for the class struggle—this basic theory of Marx. We should have to recognise as Marxists Messrs. Kautsky, Stein, Renner, Speyer, Dan, Crispien, Kampfmeyer, etc., if for no other reason than because on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Marx’s death they published a symposium entitled: Marx, der Denker und Kampfer (Marx, the Thinker and Fighter). This book, which besides the title contains nothing of Marxism, represents a fine illustration of how it is possible to turn live, militant and always up-to-date Marxism into stone-dead scholastic. (19)

Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action. The tasks and tactics of the trade unions are defined as revolutionary action against capitalism.

Now if the class struggle has been replaced by class collaboration, if bourgeois democracy is contrasted with proletarian dictatorship, if fascism is “a lesser evil” than communism, then the tasks of the trade unions are one thing. If, however, the class struggle and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat are the guide to action, then the tasks of the trade unions are quite different. With whom, then, is Marx? Is he with the falsifiers of his teachings, or with those who developed the struggle on the basis of his teachings? Where do we find Marxism? In the Amsterdam International, whose leaders sit in the League of Nations, or in the Red International of Labour Unions, thousands of whose members are languishing in capitalist prisons? Who, then, is the continuer of Marx—international reformism, which has become the would-be healer of capitalism, which is doing its utmost to discover some way of salvaging the disintegrating capitalist system, or is it persecuted, oppressed yet ever-victorious communism? This is why we have the right to say to all flunkeys of the bourgeoisie and lackeys of monopolist capital: “Keep your dirty paws off Marx and Marxism!”



1. Lenin, State and Revolution. Collected Works (Russian edition), Vol. XXI, p. 392.

2. Lenin, State and Revolution, Chapter I. Martin Lawrence, London.

3. Communist Manifesto. Martin Lawrence, p. 26.

4. S. Nestripke, The Trade Union Movement, Stuttgart, 1923, Vol. I, p. 44.

5. Ibid., p. 96.

6. Minutes of the Thirteenth Congress of German Trade Unions, 1928, p. 11.

7. Ibid., p. 210.

8. All of these quotations have been taken by me from F. David: Der Bankrott des Reformismus (Bankruptcy of Reformism).

9. Vossische Zeitung, February 22, 1933, afternoon edition.

10. See Franz Mehring, History of German Social-Democracy, Vol. II, Dietz, Stuttgart, 1898, p. 88. Mehring wrote: “They preferred to make a bargain with His Royal Highness rather than grant the workers a share of the victor’s booty.” (p. 370.)

11. G. Sorel, La Décomposition du Marxisme, Paris, 1907.

12. The author of this article is Orabon, one of the leaders of the Anarchist Federation of the Iberian Peninsula.

13. Solidaridad Obrera, November 16, 1932.

14. Marx, Value, Price and Profit (Appendix to German edition) p. 78.

15. Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, Moscow, 1934 (English edition), p. 94.

16. Hermann Müller, Karl Marx and the Trade Unions (German edition), 1921, p. 73-

17. Daniel De Leon, Marx as Text, “Industrial Unionism,” New York, 1910. p. 39.

18. G. D. H. Cole, Introduction to Trade Unionism, 1924.

19. Marx der Denker und Kampfer—Gedenksschrift zum 50. Todestag, Berlin, 1933.


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