Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 2

Report on the
Fourth World Congress

Delivered December 28, 1922 at a Meeting of the Communist Fraction
of the Tenth All-Union Congress of the Soviets
with Non-Party Delegates Attending [1]


You have invited me to make a report on the recent World Congress of the Communist International. I take this to mean that what you want is not a factual review of the work of the last congress, since in that case it would be much more expedient to turn to the minutes of its sessions, already available in printed bulletins, rather than listen to a report. My task, as I understand it, is to try to give you an evaluation of the general situation of the revolutionary movement and its perspectives in the light of those facts and issues that we faced at the Fourth World Congress.

Naturally this presupposes a greater or lesser familiarity with the condition of the international revolutionary movement. Let me remark parenthetically that our press, unfortunately, does far from everything it should in order to acquaint us as intimately with facts of the world labour movement, especially the Communist movement, as our Press does, say, with facts relating to our economic life, to our Soviet construction. Yet to us these are manifestations of equal importance. For my part, I have resorted more than once (contrary to my habits) to guerrilla actions in order to get our press to utilize the exceptional opportunities at our disposal in order to provide our party with a complete, concrete and precise picture of what is taking place in the sphere of revolutionary struggle, doing this from day to day without lectures, homilies or generalizations (for we need generalizations only from time to time), but simply supplying facts and material from the internal life of each Communist Party.

I think that on this point the pressure of the party public opinion ought to be brought to bear on our press, whose editors read the foreign papers and who proffer on the basis of this press generalizations from time to time, but virtually no factual material. But inasmuch as gathered here is the fraction of the soviet congress and, consequently, highly qualified party elements, I shall assume for the purpose of my report a general acquaintance with the actual condition of the Communist parties and of the other parties which still wield influence in the labour movement. My task is to submit to verification our general criteria, our views on the conditions for and the tempos of development of the proletarian revolution from the standpoint of new facts, particularly those facts which were supplied us by the Fourth Congress of the Comintern.

Comrades, I wish to say at the very outset that if our aim is not to become confused and not to lose our perspective, then in evaluating the labour movement and its revolutionary possibilities we ought to bear in mind that there exist three major spheres which, although interdependent, differ profoundly from one another. First, there is Europe; second, America; and third, the colonial countries, that is, primarily Asia and Africa. The need of analysing the world labour movement in terms of these three spheres flows from the nature of our revolutionary criteria.

Marxism teaches us that in order for the proletarian revolution to become possible there must be given, schematically speaking, three premises or conditions. The first premise is the conditions of production. Productive technique must have attained such heights as to provide economic gains from the replacement of capitalism by socialism. Secondly, there must be a class interested in effecting this change and sufficiently strong to achieve it, that is, a class numerically large enough and playing a sufficiently important role in economy to introduce this change. The reference here is of course to the working class. And thirdly, this class must be prepared to carry out the revolution. It must have the will to carry it out, and must be sufficiently organized and conscious to be capable of carrying it out. We pass here into the domain of the so-called subjective factors and subjective premises for the proletarian revolution. If with these three criteria – productive-technological, social-class and subjective-political – we approach the indicated three spheres, then the difference between them becomes strikingly apparent. True enough, we used to view the question of mankind’s readiness for socialism from the productive-technological standpoint much more abstractly than we do now. If you consult our old books, even those not yet outdated, you will find in them an absolutely correct estimate that capitalism had already outlived itself 15 or 20, 25 or 30 years ago.

In what sense was this intended? In the sense that 25 years ago and more, the replacement of the capitalist mode of production by socialist methods would have already represented objective gains, that is, mankind could have produced more under socialism than under capitalism. But 25 to 30 years ago this still did not signify that productive forces were no longer capable of development under capitalism. We know that in all parts of the world, including and especially in Europe which has until comparative recent times played the leading economic and financial role in the world, the productive forces still continued to grow. And we are now able to fix the year up to which they continued to grow in Europe: the year 1913. This means that up to that year capitalism represented not an absolute but a relative hindrance to the development of the productive forces. In the technological sense, Europe developed with unprecedented speed and power from 1894 to 1913, that is to say, Europe became economically enriched during the 20 years which preceded the imperialist war. Beginning with 1913 – and we can say this positively – the development of capitalism, of its productive forces, came to a halt one year before the outbreak of the war because the productive forces ran up against the limits fixed for them by capitalist property and the capitalist form of appropriation. The market was split up, competition was brought to its intensest pitch, and henceforward capitalist countries could seek to eliminate one another from the market only by mechanical means.

It is not the war that put a stop to the development of productive forces in Europe, but rather the war itself arose from the impossibility of the productive forces to develop further in Europe under the conditions of capitalist management. The year 1913 marks the great turning point in the evolution of European economy. The war acted simply to deepen and sharpen this crisis which stemmed from the fact that further economic development within the conditions of capitalism was absolutely impossible. This applies to Europe as a whole. Consequently, if before 1913 we were conditionally correct in saying that socialism is more advantageous than capitalism, it therefore follows that since 1913 capitalism already signifies a condition of absolute stagnation and disintegration for Europe, while socialism provides the only economic salvation. This renders more precise our views with respect to the first premise for the proletarian revolution.

The second premise is the working class. It must become sufficiently powerful in the economic sense in order to gain power and rebuild society. Does this condition obtain today? After the experience of our Russian Revolution it is no longer possible to raise this issue, inasmuch as the October revolution became possible in our backward country. But we have learned in recent years to evaluate the social power of the proletariat on the world scale in a somewhat new way and much more precisely and concretely. Those naïve, pseudo-Marxist views which demanded that the proletariat comprise 75 or 90 per cent of the population before taking power, these views appear as quite infantile. Even in countries where the peasantry comprises the majority of the population the proletariat can and must find access to the peasantry in order to achieve the conquest of power. Absolutely alien to us is any sort of reformist opportunism in relation to the peasantry. But at the same time, no less alien to us is dogmatism. The working class in all countries plays a social and economic role sufficiently great to be able to find a road to the peasant masses, to the oppressed nationalities and the colonial peoples, and in this way assure itself of the majority. After the experience of the Russian Revolution this is not a speculation, not a hypothesis, not a deduction, but an incontestable fact.

And, finally, the third requirement: the working class must be ready for the overturn and capable of accomplishing it. The working class not only must be sufficiently powerful for it, but must be conscious of its power and must be able to apply this power. Today we can and must resolve into its elements and render more precise this subjective factor. During the post-war years, we have observed in the political life of Europe that the working class is ready for the overturn, ready in the sense of striving subjectively toward it, ready in terms of its will, moods, self-sacrifices, but still lacking the necessary organizational leadership. Consequently the mood of the class and its organizational consciousness need not always coincide. Our revolution, thanks to an exceptional combination of historical factors, afforded our backward country the opportunity to effect the transfer of power into the hands of the working class, in a direct alliance with the peasant masses. The role of the party is all too clear to us and, fortunately, it is today already clear to the West European Communist parties. Not to take the role of the party into account is to fall into pseudo-Marxist objectivism which presupposes some sort of purely objective and automatic preparation of the revolution, and thereby postpones the revolution to an indefinite future. Such automatism is alien to us. It is a Menshevik, a Social-Democratic world outlook. We know, we have learned in practice and we are teaching others to comprehend the enormous role of the subjective, the conscious factor that the revolutionary party of the working class represents.

Without our party the 1917 overturn would not, of course, have taken place and the entire fate of our country would have been different. It would have been thrown back to vegetate as a colonial country; it would have been plundered by and divided among the imperialist powers of the world. That this did not happen was guaranteed historically by the arming of the working class with the incomparable sword, our Communist Party. This did not happen in post-war Europe.

Two of the three necessary premises are extant. Long before the war the relative advantages of socialism, and since 1913 and all the more so after the war, the absolute necessity of socialism have been established. Failing socialism, Europe is decaying and disintegrating economically. This is a fact. The working class in Europe no longer continues to grow. Its destiny, its class destiny, corresponds and runs parallel to the development of economy. To the extent that European economy, with inevitable fluctuations, suffers stagnation and even disintegration, to that extent the working class, as a class fails to grow socially, ceases to increase numerically but suffers from unemployment, from the terrible swellings of the reserve army of labour, etc., etc. The war roused the working class to its feet in the revolutionary sense. Was the working class, because of its social weight, capable of carrying out the revolution before the war? What did it lack? It lacked the consciousness of its own strength. Its strength grew in Europe automatically, almost imperceptibly, with the growth of industry. The war shook up the working class. Because of this terrible and bloody upheaval, the entire working class in Europe was imbued with revolutionary moods on the very next day after the war ended. Consequently, one of the subjective factors, the desire to change this world, was at hand. What was lacking? The party was lacking, the party capable of leading the working class to victory.

Here is how the events of the revolution unfolded within our own country and abroad. In 1917, in Russia we have: the February-March revolution; and within nine months – October. The revolutionary party guarantees victory to the working class and peasant poor. In 1918 – revolution in Germany, accompanied by changes at the top; the working class tries to forge ahead but is hurled back time and again. The proletarian revolution in Germany does not lead to victory. In 1919, the eruption of the Hungarian proletarian revolution: its base is too narrow and the party too weak. The revolution is crushed in a few months in 1919. By 1920, the situation has already changed and it continues to change more and more sharply.

In France there is a historical date – May 1, 1920. It marks a sharp turn that took place in the relation of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The mood of the French proletariat had been on the whole revolutionary but it took too light a view of victory. It was lulled by that party and those organizations which had matured in the preceding period of peaceful and organic development of capitalism. On May 1, 1920, the French proletariat declared a general strike. This should have been its first major clash with the French bourgeoisie.

Entire bourgeois France trembled. The proletariat which had just emerged from the trenches struck terror into its heart. But the old Socialist Party, the old Social Democrats, who dared not oppose the revolutionary working class and who issued the call for the general strike, at the same time did everything in their power to blow it up; on the other hand, the revolutionary elements, the Communists, were too weak, too scattered and too lacking in experience. The May 1st strike failed. And if you consult the French newspapers for 1920 you will see in the editorials and news stories already a swift and decisive growth of the strength of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie at once sensed its own stability, gathered the state apparatus into its hands and began to pay less and less attention to the demands of the proletariat And the threats of revolution.

In that same year, in August 1920, we experienced an event closer to home which likewise brought about a change in the relation of forces, not in favour of the revolution. This was our defeat below Warsaw [2], a defeat which from the international standpoint is most intimately bound up with the fact that in Germany and in Poland at that moment the revolutionary movement was unable to gain victory because there was lacking a strong revolutionary party enjoying the confidence of the majority of the working class.

A month later, in September 1920, we lived through the great movement in Italy. Precisely at that moment in the autumn of 1920 the Italian proletariat reached its highest point of ferment after the war. Mills, plants, railways, mines are seized. The state is disorganized, the bourgeoisie is virtually prostrate, its spine almost broken. It seems that only one more step forward is needed and the Italian working class will conquer power. But at this moment, its party, that same Socialist Party which had emerged from the previous epoch, although formally adhering to the Third International but with its spirit and roots still in the previous epoch, i.e., in the Second International – this party recoils in terror from the seizure of power, from the civil war, leaving the proletariat exposed. An attack is launched upon the proletariat by the most resolute wing of the bourgeoisie in the shape of Fascism, in the shape of whatever still remains strong in the police and the army. The proletariat is smashed.

After the defeat of the proletariat in September, we observe in Italy a still more drastic shift in the relationship of forces. The bourgeoisie said to itself: “So that’s the kind of people you are. You urge the proletariat forward but you lack the spirit to take power.” And it pushed the Fascist detachments to the fore.

Within a few months, by March 1921, we witness the most important recent event in the life of Germany, the celebrated March events. Here we have a lack of correspondence between the class and the party developing from a diametrically opposite direction. In Italy, in September, the working class was eager for battle. The party shied back in terror. In Germany the working class had been eager for battle. It fought in 1918, in the course of 1919 and in the course of 1920. But its efforts and sacrifices were not crowned by victory because it did not have at its head a sufficiently strong, experienced and cohesive party; instead there was another party at its head which saved the bourgeoisie for the second time, after saving it during the war. And now in 1921 the Communist Party of Germany, seeing how the bourgeoisie was consolidating its positions, wanted to make a heroic attempt to cut off the bourgeoisie’s road by an offensive, by a blow, and so it rushed ahead. But the working class did not support it. Why not? Because the working class had not yet learned to have confidence in the party. It did not yet fully know this party while its own experience in the civil war had brought it only defeats in the course of 1919-20.

And so in March 1921 a situation occurred which impelled the Communist International to say: The relations between the parties and the classes, between the Communist parties and the working classes in all countries of Europe are still not mature for an immediate offensive, for an immediate battle for the conquest of power. It is necessary to proceed with a painstaking education of the Communist ranks in a twofold sense: First, in the sense of fusing them together and tempering them; and second, in the sense of their conquering the confidence of the overwhelming majority of the working class. Such was the slogan advanced by the Third International at a time when the March events in Germany were still fresh.

And then, Comrades, after the month of March, throughout the year 1921 and during 1922 we observed the process, at any rate on the surface, of the strengthening of the bourgeois governments in Europe; we observed the strengthening of the extreme right wing. In France the National Bloc headed by Poincaré still remains in power. But Poincaré is considered in France, that is within the National Bloc, as a “leftist” and looming on the horizon is a new and more reactionary, more imperialist ministry of Tardieu. [3] In England, the government of Lloyd George, this imperialist with his stock of pacifist preachments and proverbs, has been supplanted by the purely conservative, openly imperialist Ministry of Bonar Law. In Germany, the coalition ministry, i.e., one with an admixture of Social Democrats. has been replaced by an openly bourgeois ministry of Kuno [4]; and finally in Italy we see the assumption of power by Mussolini, the open rule of the counter-revolutionary fist. In the economic field, capitalism is on the offensive against the proletariat. In every country of Europe the workers have to defend, and not always successfully, the scale of wages they had yesterday and the 8-hour working day in those countries where it had been gained legally during or after the last period of the war. Such is the general situation. Clearly, the revolutionary development, that is, the struggle of the proletariat for power beginning with the year 1917, does not represent a uniform and steadily rising curve.

There has been a break in the curve. Comrades, in order to picture more clearly the situation through which the working class is now passing it might not be amiss to resort to an analogy. Analogy – historical comparison and juxtaposition – is a dangerous device because time and again people try to extract from an analogy more than it can give. But within certain limits, employed for the purpose of illustration, an analogy is useful. We began our revolution in 1905, after the Russo-Japanese War. Already at that time we were being drawn toward power by the logic of things. 1905 and 1906 brought stagnation, and the two Dumas; 1907 brought the 3rd of June and the government coup – the first victories of reaction which met almost no resistance – and then the revolution rolled bark. 1908 and 1909 were already the black years of reaction; and then only gradually beginning with 1910-11 was there an upswing, which the war then intersected. In March 1917, came the victory of bourgeois democracy; in October – the victory of workers and peasants. We have therefore two key points: 1905 and 1917, separated by an interval of 12 years. These twelve years represent in a revolutionary sense a broken curve, first declining and then rising.

In an international sense, first and foremost in relation to Europe, we now have something similar, Victory was possible in 1917 and 1918 but we did not gain it – the ultimate condition was lacking, the powerful Communist Party. The bourgeoisie succeeded in restoring many of its political and military-police positions but not the economic ones, while the proletariat began building its Communist Party brick by brick. In the initial stages this Communist Party tried to make up for lost opportunities by a single audacious leap forward, as in March 1921 in Germany. It burned its fingers. The International issued a warning: “You must conquer the confidence of the majority of the working class before you dare summon the workers to an open revolutionary assault.” This was the lesson of the Third Congress. A year and a half later the Fourth World Congress convened.

In making the most general appraisal it is necessary to say that at the time the Fourth Congress convened, a turning point had not yet been reached – in the sense that the International could say: “Now the hour of open assault has already sounded.” The Fourth Congress developed, deepened, verified and rendered more precise the work of the Third Congress, and was convinced that this work was basically correct.

I said that in 1908-09 on a much narrower arena at the time, we lived through in Russia the moment of the lowest decline of the revolutionary wave in the sense of the prevailing moods among the working class – both in the sense of the then triumphant Stolypinism and Rasputinism [5], as well as in the sense of the disintegration of the advanced ranks of the working class. What remained as illegal nuclei were terribly small in comparison to the working class as a whole. The best elements were in jails, serving hard-labour terms in penitentiaries, or in exile. 1908-09 – this was the lowest point of the revolutionary movement Then came a gradual upswing. For the last two years and, in part, right now we are living through a period undoubtedly analogous to 1908 and 1909, i.e., the lowest point in the direct and open revolutionary struggle.

There is still another point of similarity. On June 3, 1907 the counter-revolution gained a victory (Stolypin’s coup) on the parliamentary arena almost without meeting any resistance in the country. And toward the end of 1907 another terrible blow descended – the industrial crisis. What influence did this have on the working class? Did it impel the workers to struggle? No. In 1905, in 1906 and the first half of 1907 the working class had already given its energies and its best elements to the open struggle. It suffered defeat, and on the heels of defeat came the commercial-industrial crisis which weakened the productive and economic role of the proletariat, rendering its position even less stable. This crisis weakened it both in the revolutionary and political sense. Only the commercial and industrial upswing which began in 1909-10 and which reassembled the workers in factories and plants, again imbued the workers with confidence, provided a major basis of support for our party and gave the revolution an impulsion forward.

Here too, I say, we can draw a certain analogy. In the spring of 1921 a fearsome commercial crisis broke out in America and in Japan after the proletariat had suffered defeats: the defeat in France on May 1, 1920; in Italy, in September 1920, in Germany, throughout 1919 and 1920 and especially in the March days of 1921. But precisely at this moment in the spring of 1921 there ensued the crisis in Japan and in America and in the latter part of 1921 it leaped to Europe. Unemployment grew to unheard of proportions, especially, as you know, in England. The stability of the proletariat’s position dropped still lower, after the losses and disillusionments already suffered. And this does not strengthen, but on the contrary in the given conditions of crisis weakens the working class. During the current year and since the end of last year there have been signs of a certain industrial revival. In America it has reached the proportions of a real upswing while in Europe it remains a small uneven ripple. Thus here, too, the first impulse for the revival of an open mass movement came, especially in France, from a certain improvement in the economic conjuncture.

But here, Comrades, the analogy ceases. The industrial upswing of 1909 and 1910 in our country and in the entire pre-war world was a full-blooded, powerful boom which lasted until 1913 and came at a time when the productive forces had not yet run up against the limits of capitalism, giving rise to the greatest imperialist slaughter.

The industrial revival which began at the end of last year denotes only a change in the temperature of the tubercular organism of European economy. European economy is not growing but disintegrating, it remains on the same levels only in a few countries. The richest of European countries, insular England, has a national income at least one-third or one-quarter smaller than before the war. They engaged in war, as you know, in order to conquer markets. They ended by becoming poorer at least by one-fourth or one-third. The improvements this year have been minimal. The decline in the influence of the Social Democracy and the growth of the Communist parties at the expense of the Social Democrats is a sure symptom of this. As is well known, social reformism grew thanks to the fact that the bourgeoisie had the possibility of improving the position of the most highly skilled layers of the working class. In the nature of things, Scheidemann and everything connected with him would have been impossible without this, for after all Scheidemann does not represent simply an ideological tendency, but a tendency that grows out of certain economic and social premises. It represents a labour aristocracy which profits from the fact that capitalism is full-blooded and powerful and has the possibility of improving the condition of at least the upper layers of the working class. That is precisely why we witness in the pre-war years from 1909 to 1913, the most powerful growth of the bureaucracy in the trade unions and in the Social Democracy, and the strongest entrenchment of reformism and nationalism among the top circles of the working class which led to the terrible catastrophe of the Second International at the outbreak of the war.

And now, Comrades, the gist of the situation in Europe is characterized by this, that the bourgeoisie has no longer the possibility of fattening up the summits of the working class because it is not able even to feed the entire working class normally, in the capitalist sense of the word, “normal”. The lowering of working-class living standards is today the same kind of law as the decline of the European economy. This process started in 1913, the war introduced superficial changes into it: after the war it has become revealed with especial ferocity. The superficial fluctuations of, the economic conjuncture do not alter this fact. This is the first and basic difference between our epoch and the one prior to the war.

But there is a second difference and it is the existence of soviet Russia as a revolutionary factor. There is also a third difference the existence of a centralized International Communist Party.

And we observe, Comrades, that at the very time when the bourgeoisie is scoring one superficial victory after another over the proletariat, the growth, strengthening and systematic development of the Communist Party is not being retarded but advances forward. And herein lies the most important and fundamental difference between our epoch and the one from 1905 to 1917.

What I have said relates, as you see, primarily to Europe. It would be incorrect to apply it wholly to America. In America, too, socialism is more advantageous than capitalism; and it would be even more correct to say that especially in America socialism would be more advantageous than capitalism. In other words, were the present-day American productive forces organized along the principles of collectivism a fabulous flowering of economy would ensue.

But in relation to America it would be incorrect to say, as we do say in relation to Europe, that capitalism already represents the cessation of economic development. Europe is rotting, America is thriving. In the initial years or more correctly in the initial months, in the first twenty months after the war it might have seemed that America would be immediately undermined by the economic collapse of Europe inasmuch as America used and exploited the European market in general and the war market in particular. This market has shrivelled and dried up, and having been deprived of one of its props, the monstrous Babylonian tower of American industry threatened to lean over and to fall down altogether. But America, while having lost the European market of the previous scope (in addition to exploiting its own rich internal market with a population of 100 million), is seizing and has seized all the more surely the markets of certain European countries – those of Germany and to a considerable measure those of Britain. And we see, in 1921-22, American economy passing through a genuine commercial and industrial upswing at a time when Europe is experiencing only a distant and feeble repercussion of this upswing.

Consequently, the productive forces in America are still developing under capitalism, much more slowly, of course, than they would develop under socialism but developing nevertheless. How long they will continue to do so is another question. The American working class in its economic and social power has, of course fully matured for the conquest of state power, but in its political and organizational traditions it is incomparably further removed from the conquest of power than the European working class. Our power – the power of the Communist International – is still very weak in America. And if one were to ask (naturally this is only a hypothetical posing of the question) which will take place first: the victorious proletarian revolution in Europe or the creation of a powerful Communist Party in America. then on the basis of all the facts now available (and naturally all sorts of new facts are possible such as, say, a war between America and Japan; and war, Comrades, is a great locomotive of history) – if one were to take the present situation in its further logical development, then I would venture to say that there are far more chances that the proletariat will conquer in Europe before a powerful Communist Party rises and develops in America. [6] In other words, just as the victory of the revolutionary working class in October 1917 was the premise for the creation of the Communist International and for the growth of the Communist parties in Europe, so, in all probability, the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe will be the premise for swift revolutionary developments in America. The difference between these two areas lies in this, that in Europe the economy decays and declines with the proletariat no longer growing productively (because there is no room for growth) but awaiting the development of the Communist Party; while in America, which exploits the disintegration of Europe, the economic advancement is still proceeding.

The third sphere is constituted by the colonies. It is self-understood that the colonies – Asia and Africa (I speak of them as a unity), despite the fact that they, like Europe, contain the greatest graduations – the colonies, if taken independently and isolatedly, are absolutely not ready for the proletarian revolution. If they are taken isolatedly, then capitalism still has a long possibility of economic development in them. But the colonies belong to the metropolitan centres and their fate is intimately bound up with the fate of these European metropolitan centres.

In the colonies we observe the growing national revolutionary movement. Communists represent there only small nuclei implanted among the peasantry. So that in the colonies we have primarily petty-bourgeois and bourgeois national movements. If you were to ask concerning the prospects of the Socialist and Communist development of the colonies then I would say that this question cannot be posed in an isolated manner. Of course, after the victory of the proletariat in Europe, these colonies will become the arena for the cultural, economic and every other kind of influence exercised by Europe, but for this they must first of all play their revolutionary role parallel with the role of European proletariat. In this connection the European proletariat, particularly that of France and in the first instance that of Britain, are doing far too little. The growth of the influence of socialist and communist ideas, the emancipation of the toiling masses of the colonies, the weakening of the influence of the nationalist parties can be assured not only by and not so much by the role of the native Communist nuclei as by the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat of the metropolitan centres for the emancipation of the colonies. Only in this way will the proletariat of the metropolitan centres demonstrate to the colonies that there are two European nations, one the oppressor, the other the friend; only in this way will the proletariat give a further impetus to the colonies which will topple down the structure of imperialism and thereby perform a revolutionary service for the proletarian cause.

Comrades, until recently we failed to differentiate adequately between Europe and America. And the slow development of Communism in America might have inspired some pessimistic ideas to the effect that so far as revolution is concerned Europe must wait for America. Not at all!

Europe cannot wait. To put it differently, if the revolution in Europe is postponed for many decades, it would signify the elimination of Europe generally as a cultural force. As you all know, the philosophy now fashionable in Europe is that of Spengler: the philosophy of the decline of Europe. In its own way this is a correct class premonition on the part of the bourgeoisie. Ignoring the proletariat which will replace the European bourgeoisie and wield power, they talk about Europe’s decline. Of course, if this actually happened the inevitable result would be, if not a decline, then a prolonged economic and cultural decay of Europe and then, after a lapse of time, the American revolution would come and take Europe in tow. But there are no serious grounds for such a prognosis, pessimistic from the standpoint of time intervals. To be sure, speculations concerning time intervals are quite untrustworthy and not always serious, but I want to say that there is no reason for thinking that between the year 1917 – the inception of the new revolutionary epoch in Europe – and the major victories in Western Europe, there must be a lapse of many more years than passed between our 1905 and our 1917. Twelve years elapsed in our country from the beginning of the revolution, the initial experience, to the victory. We do not of course know just how many years will pass between 1917 and the first major, stable victory in Europe. It is not excluded that less than twelve years may pass.

In any case, the greatest advantage today lies in the existence of soviet Russia and of the Communist International, the centralized organization of the revolutionary vanguard and, intimately linked with this, the systematic organizational strengthening of Communist parties in various countries. This does not always signify their numerical growth. Naturally in 1919-20, when the first hopes of the proletariat were still fresh, the ranks of the Communist parties were flooded – as is always the case in time of high tide – and the Communist organizations became filled with unstable elements. Some of these elements have now withdrawn, but there has been no cessation of the growth of the party in terms of its becoming tempered, in terms of higher ideological clarity, in terms of international centralization and ties.

This growth is undeniable and finds its expression both in the fact that the Fourth World Congress made a start toward the drafting of an international program – for the first time in the history of the proletariat – as well as in the fact that the Fourth Congress in electing the Executive Committee created for the first time a centralist organ not on federalistic principles, not on the basis of delegated representatives from various parties, but as a body elected by the Fourth Congress itself. And this Executive Committee has been entrusted with the destinies of the Communist International until the next congress.

The Communist International is confronted after the Fourth Congress with two intimately interrelated tasks. The first task is to continue the struggle against the centrist tendencies which express the repeated and persistent attempts of the bourgeoisie through the medium of its left wing to utilize the protracted character of the revolutionary development by sinking its own roots inside the Communist International. The struggle against Centrism within the Communist International and the further purging of this world party – this is the first task. The second is the struggle for influence over the overwhelming majority of the working class.

These two problems were raised very sharply at the Third Congress, especially in connection with our French party which came to the congress represented by two factions – the centre and the left. Following the events of 1920, our Italian party split. By the summer of 1921 the Italian centre, the so-called Maximalists headed by Serrati, were no longer present at our congress (the Third) and they were declared expelled from the international. In the French party these same two tendencies became delineated on the eve of the Fourth Congress. The parallelism in many respects between the Italian and French movements has been previously remarked upon. And here is a fact of the greatest symptomatic significance: despite the triumph of the counter-revolution in Italy as in Europe generally, to which I have already referred, we observe precisely in Italy, where Communism has suffered its worst defeat, not disintegration, not a recoil from, but on the contrary, a new impulsion toward the Communist International. The Maximalists led by Serrati whom we had expelled (and correctly so, for conduct that was truly treacherous), these Maximalists, having split with the reformists during the September 1920 movement, began knocking at the doors of the International on the eve of the Fourth Congress. What does this signify? It signifies a new revolutionary impulsion to the left on the part of a section of the proletarian vanguard.

There were many indications that the French centrists would repeat the course of the Italian Maximalists, that is, split with us. We would of course have been reconciled, even to such an outcome in the knowledge that the left wing would have in the end gained the upper hand. However, the French centrists, with Cachin and Frossard at the head, have learned something from the experience of the Italian Maximalists who arrived in Moscow with heads bowed in repentance after having split with Moscow. You should all acquaint yourselves with the resolution on the French party adopted by the Fourth Congress. These resolutions are in their own way quite Draconic, especially if one takes into account the morals and customs of France and of its old – Socialist Party. A demand for a complete break with all the institutions of the bourgeoisie is something that seems self-evident to us. But in France where hundreds upon hundreds of Communist Party members belonged to Masonic lodges, bourgeois – democratic Leagues for the Defence of the Rights of Man, etc., etc. – there the demand for a complete break with the bourgeoisie, for the expulsion of all Freemasons and the like represents a complete overturn in the party’s life.

At the congress we adopted a demand to the French party that nine-tenths of the candidates for all electoral posts, the parliament, the municipal councils, the cantonal councils, etc., be selected from among workers and peasants directly from the workbench or the plough. In a country where entire legions of intellectuals, lawyers, careerists flock to the gates of various parties whenever they sniff the scent of a mandate, and all the more so a prospect of power, etc., those acquainted with the existing conditions in the French party will understand that a demand for advancing workers and peasants directly from the workbench and the plough to nine-tenths of the electoral posts represents the greatest possible upheaval in the life of the French party. The left wing which is approximately as strong numerically as the centre was in favour of this. The centre vacillated a great deal.

We understood that this issue was a very touchy one and that our Moscow boots had stepped on a very sensitive corn and we awaited how Paris would react to the prodding of Moscow: The latest telegrams testify that a break with Moscow was attempted. Morizet is named as the initiator of this attempt. He paid us a visit in Moscow and then wrote a very sympathetic book. (It is one thing to write in Paris a sympathetic book about the Russian Revolution; it is something else again to prepare the French revolution). This Morizet together with Soutif [7] – both members of the Central Committee – proposed to split and to proclaim the formation of an independent party without waiting for the return of the French delegation from Moscow. But there was such great pressure from the ranks, the readiness of the rank and file to accept the decisions of the Fourth Congress was so clear and manifest, that they were forced to beat a retreat. And while they abstained – only abstained – the incumbent Central Committee consisting entirely of centrists, with not a single left winger on it and perhaps without any general enthusiasm among all the members of the Central Committee, nevertheless voted to submit to the Moscow decisions.

I repeat, comrades, this fact may appear secondary from the standpoint of world perspectives. But if we had followed the life of the French working class and its Communist vanguard from day to day – and we must learn to do this through our press – then all of us would have said that only now, only after the Fourth Congress, has French Communism turned the helm in such a way as will guarantee it a swift progress in conquering the confidence of the broad working masses of France. This is all the more true because there is not another working class in this world that has been deceived so often, so shamelessly and vilely as the French working class. Since the end of the Eighteenth Century it has been duped during all the revolutions by the bourgeoisie in all its colourations. Among all the parties of the Second International, the French Socialists of the pre-war and war epochs elaborated the most refined technique and virtuosity of treachery. And this is why the French working class with its superb revolutionary temperament inevitably reacted with the greatest mistrust even toward the new Communist Party. It had seen “socialists” under all sorts of labels; it had seen organizations, no matter how they changed their skins, remain passageways for careerists, deputies, journalists of all sorts, ministers, etc. Briand, Millerand, and all the rest, after all, stem from the old Socialist Party. No other proletariat in the world has passed through such a school of deception and political exploitation. Hence mistrust; hence political indifference: hence syndicalist influences and prejudices.

What we need is for our Communist Party to come before the working class and demonstrate in action that it is not a party like other parties but the revolutionary organization of the working class; that there is no room in its ranks for careerists, Freemasons, democrats and grafters. For the first time this demand has been presented and accepted. Furthermore a date has been fixed: January 1, 1923 is the deadline. Not a single Freemason, not a single careerist – by January 1, 1923. They have only a few days left. Comrades, these are facts of utmost importance. (Applause)

Another question likewise in connection with France was posed very sharply – the question of the united front. As you know, the slogan of the united front arises from two causes. In the first place, we Communists are still a minority in France, in Germany, in every country of Europe with the exception of Bulgaria and perhaps Czechoslovakia we influence and control less than one-half of the proletariat. Concurrently, the revolutionary development has started to lag; the proletariat wants to live and fight but finds itself split. It is under these conditions that the Communists must conquer the confidence of this working class. On what basis? On the basis of the struggle in its full scope. On the basis of current day-to-day struggles, on the basis of every demand, at every strike, at every demonstration. The Communist must be in the forefront. The Communist must conquer the confidence of those who still do not trust him today. Hence the slogan of the united front; hence the internal cohesion, the expulsion from our ranks of everything alien to us in spirit and a simultaneous struggle to win over those proletarian elements that still trust these careerists, opportunists, Freemasons and the like. This is a twofold but closely related task. The French Communists, especially the centrists who, under the pressure of the Dissidents, that is, of the French Socialists, had tolerated Freemasons in their ranks and rejected the tactic of the united front, have proposed to apply the tactic of the united front in connection with the demand for political amnesty. I cite France because these questions found their sharpest expression in that country.

When Frossard, Secretary of the French party, proposed in the name of the Communists to the Dissidents, i.e., Socialists, patriots, reformists, that they engage in joint action in order to obtain amnesty for worker-revolutionists clapped in jail during the war or in the post-war period – as soon as this offer was made, the shrewdest – leaders of the Dissidents immediately replied in a way that is typical and instructive in the highest degree. We have met and we shall meet this answer elsewhere. The Dissidents said: “You Communists have turned to us and consequently you thereby acknowledge that we are not betrayers of the working class. But we want time to think your offer over; and see whether or not you are hiding a brickbat in your sleeves; or are perchance preparing to discredit us.” I gather from the papers that in The Hague, Comrade Radek wrote reportedly a very impolite article about Vandervelde and Scheidemann and at the same time offered the local Social Democrats and followers of Amsterdam a united front against militarism and the war danger.

Knowing the irascible temper of Comrade Radek I am ready to allow that his article was not very polite. But the reaction of Messrs. Amsterdamists was quite typical: “See here,” they said, “this means one of two things. Either you must admit that we are not traitors in view of your proposing a united front to us or we shall become firmly convinced that you are hiding not only disrespectful articles, but brickbats, and something worse in your sleeves.”

Comrades, this position of course constitutes a most sweeping admission of bankruptcy. Upon reading this I was reminded of the comments of certain Parisian wits in the period of our emigration when the Social Democrats proposed to debate with Burtsev. [8] They pointed out that Burtsev’s reply in rejecting the debate amounted to his saying: “I’m a wise old bird and you can’t trap me. What you seek by a discussion is to expose my feeble mentality but I refuse to fall for such bait.”

The gentlemen of the Second International are shrewder than Burtsev but they fall into the self-same trap. For what is the content of the brickbat in our sleeves? it is this, that we say that these people are incapable of struggle, incapable of defending the interests of the proletariat. And we address ourselves to their army, that is, those workers who still follow and trust them and say to them: “We are proposing to your leaders a certain way of fighting jointly with us for the 8-hour working day, for political amnesty, and against wage cuts. What is our brickbat? Why this, that if you Amsterdamists and Social Democrats expose yourselves in this struggle as cowards and traitors, a section of your workers will come over to us. But if contrary to expectations you turn out to be revolutionary tigers and lions, then so much the better for you. Try it.”

This is the content of our bait. Our trap is simple. It is so simple. but at the same time it is unassailable. It is impossible to squirm away from it. It does not matter whether a Burtsev agrees or refuses to discuss for fear of revealing that he is no good. In either case he remains no good, and can’t remedy the situation. In other words, the slogan of the united front which is already playing an enormous role in all European countries in educating the working masses about the Communists and posing before the workers who do not yet trust the Communists the following proposition:

“You do not believe in revolutionary methods and in the dictatorship. Very well. But we Communists propose to you and your organization that we fight side by side to gain those demands which you are advancing today.”

This is an unassailable argument. It educates the masses about the Communists and shows them that the Communist organization is the best for partial struggles as well. I repeat that we have gained major successes in this struggle. And alongside the growing internal cohesion of the Communist parties we observe the growth of their political influence and their increased ability to manoeuvre, really manoeuvre. This is something that they have especially lacked.

From the united front flows the slogan of a workers’ government. The Fourth Congress submitted it to a thorough discussion and once again confirmed it as the central political slogan for the next period. What does the struggle for a workers’ government signify? We Communists of course know that a genuine workers’ government in Europe will be established after the proletariat overthrows the bourgeoisie together with its democratic machinery and installs the proletarian dictatorship under the leadership of the Communist Party. But in order to bring this about it is necessary for the European proletariat in its majority to support the Communist Party.

But this does not obtain as yet and so our Communist parties say on, every appropriate occasion:

“Socialist workers, syndicalist workers, anarchists and non-party workers! Wages are being slashed; less and less remains of the 8-hour working day; the cost of living is soaring. Such things would not be if all the workers despite their differences were able to unite and install their own workers’ government.”

And the slogan of a workers’ government thus becomes a wedge driven by the Communists between the working class and all other classes: and inasmuch as the top circles of the Social Democracy, the reformists, are tied up with the bourgeoisie, this wedge will act more and more to tear away, and it is already beginning to tear away the left wing of Social-Democratic workers from their leaders. Under certain conditions the slogan of a workers’ government can become a reality in Europe. That is to say, a moment may arrive when the Communists together with the left elements of the Social Democracy will set up a workers’ government in a way similar to ours in Russia when we created a workers’ and peasants’ government together with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. Such a phase would constitute a transition to the proletarian dictatorship, the full and completed one. But right now the significance of the slogan of a workers’ government lies not so much in the manner and conditions of its realization in life as in the fact that at the present time this slogan opposes the working class as a whole politically to all other classes, i.e., to all the groupings of the bourgeois political world.

At the Fourth Congress we were confronted concretely with the question of a workers’ government with respect to Saxony. [9] There the Social Democrats together with the Communists comprise a majority as against the bourgeoisie in the Saxon Landtag. I believe there are 40 Social-Democratic deputies and 10 Communist deputies while the total bourgeois bloc numbers less than 50. And so the Social Democrats proposed to the Communists the joint formation of a workers’ government in Saxony. There were some doubts and vacillations on this issue in our German party. The question was reviewed here in Moscow and a decision was reached to reject the proposal. What do the German Social Democrats really want? What were they aiming at with this proposal? You all know that the German republic is headed by a Social Democrat, Ebert. Under Ebert is a bourgeois ministry, called to power by Ebert. But in Saxony, one of the most highly proletarianized sections of Germany, it is proposed to institute a coalition labour ministry of Social Democrats and Communists. The result would be: a genuine bourgeois government in Germany, over the country as a whole, while in the Landtag of one of the sections of Germany there would be acting as a lightning rod, a coalition Social-Democratic and Communist government.

In the Comintern we gave the following answer: If you, our German Communist comrades, are of the opinion that a revolution is possible in the next few months in Germany, then we would advise you to participate in Saxony in a coalition government and to utilize your ministerial posts in Saxony for the furthering of political and organizational tasks and for transforming Saxony in a certain sense into a Communist drillground so as to have a revolutionary stronghold already reinforced in a period of preparation for the approaching outbreak of the revolution. But this would be possible only if the pressure of the revolution were already making itself felt, only if it were already at hand. In that case it would imply only the seizure of a single position in Germany which you are destined to capture as a whole. But at the present time you will of course play in Saxony the role of an appendage, an impotent appendage because the Saxon government itself is impotent before Berlin, and Berlin is – a bourgeois government. The Communist Party of Germany was in complete accord with this decision and the negotiations were broken off. The proposal of the Social Democrats to the Communists – much weaker than the Social Democrats and hounded by these Social Democrats – to share power with them in Saxony is of course a trap. But in this trap was expressed the pressure of the working masses for unity. This pressure has been evoked by us; and this pressure, insofar as it operates to tear the working class away from the bourgeoisie, will in the last analysis work in our favour.

Comrades, I said that there is a tide of concentrated reaction now sweeping over Europe and her governmental upper stories; the victory of the Tories in England; Poincaré’s national bloc with a prospect of Tardieu in France; in Germany which is still called a Socialist Republic today (it was thus hastily labelled in November 1918), there is a purely bourgeois government; and finally in Italy there is the assumption of power by Mussolini.

Mussolini is a lesson being given to Europe with regard to democracy, its principles and its methods. In some respects this lesson is analogous – from the opposite extreme, of course – to the one which we gave Europe in the beginning of 1918 by dispersing the Constituent Assembly. Mussolini is a lesson to Europe that is instructive in the highest degree.

Italy is an old cultured country, with democratic traditions, with universal suffrage, etc., etc. When the proletariat frightened the bourgeoisie to death but proved unable, owing to the treachery of its own party, to deal it the death blow, the bourgeoisie set in motion all of its most active elements, headed by Mussolini, a renegade from socialism and the proletariat. A private party army was mobilized and it was equipped from one end of the country to the other with funds allegedly drawn from mysterious sources but which come principally from governmental resources, partly from the secret Italian funds, and to a considerable measure from French subsidies to Mussolini. Under the aegis of democracy the storm-troop organization of the counter-revolution was organized and in the course of two years it conducted assaults upon workers’ districts and threw a ring of its troops around Rome. The bourgeoisie hesitated because it was not sure that Mussolini was capable of coping with the situation. But when Mussolini proved his ability, they all bowed before him.

The speech made by Mussolini in the Italian parliament ought to be posted and placarded in all the workers’ institutions and houses in Western Europe. What he said amounts to the following: “I could chase all of you out of here and turn this (parliament) into a camp for my Fascists. But I don’t need to do it because you will lick my boots away.” And they all answered, “Hear! hear!” And the Italian democrats thereupon requested to know: “Which boot is it your pleasure that we begin with – the right or the left?”

Comrades, this is a lesson of exceptional importance to the European working class which in its top layers is corroded by its traditions, by bourgeois democracy, by the deliberate hypnosis of legality.

I have said that the centralized Communist organization of the Comintern and the existence of the soviet republic constitute the greatest conquests of the European and world working class in this epoch of the deathbed triumphs of the European bourgeoisie, in this epoch of a break in the rising curve of the revolution. The gist of the matter is not that we, Russia, conduct internationalist propaganda. It of course happens that Russian comrades like Radek and Lozovsky [10], for example, manage, to our surprise, to reach The Hague, and there write disrespectful articles, and arouse the ire of pacifists of both sexes, etc., etc. This, Comrades, is of course very valuable and very gratifying, but it is still of secondary importance.

Nor is the gist of the matter in the fact that we in Moscow extend hospitality to the congresses of the Comintern. It is of course a good thing, but our propaganda does not consist in welcoming our comrades from Italy, Germany and elsewhere and assigning them rooms in the Lux Hotel [11] (poorly heated, of course, inasmuch as we have not yet learned to operate heating systems efficiently). The gist lies in the very existence of the soviet republic. We have become accustomed to this fact. The entire world working class appears, in a certain sense, to have become accustomed to it. On the other side, the bourgeoisie, too, makes a pretence to a certain extent of having grown accustomed. But in order to understand the significance for the revolution of the existence of the soviet republic, let us imagine for a moment that this Republic no longer exists. With Mussolini in Italy, Poincaré in France, Bonar Law in England, a bourgeois government in Germany, the downfall of the soviet republic would signify the postponement of the European and world revolution for decades; it would signify the genuine decay of European culture. Socialism would then arise perhaps from America, from Japan, from Asia. But instead of speculating in terms of decades, what we are striving for is to bring this issue to its consummation in the next few years. (Applause) For this there is the greatest and most ample opportunity.

Once it establishes a correct relationship with the peasantry, what is the proletariat – of even so backward a country as ours? We have already seen what it is with our own eyes, and our All-Union Soviet Congress, now convening in Moscow, is demonstrating just what is signified by the power of the proletariat, encircled and blockaded by the whole world, but nevertheless leading the peasantry behind it. The European and world working class draws its strength and energy from this source, from soviet Russia. We hold the power. In our country the means of production are nationalized. This is a great trump card in the hands of the toiling masses of Russia and at the same time this is a pledge of an accelerated development of the revolution in Europe.

Should (working-class) America lag behind we shall nevertheless gain the upper hand. During the imperialist war the American bourgeoisie warmed its hands at the European bonfire. But, Comrades, once the revolutionary conflagration starts sweeping Europe the American bourgeoisie will not be able to maintain itself long. It is nowhere written that the European proletariat must keep waiting until the American proletariat learns not to succumb to the lies of its triply depraved bourgeoisie. Nowhere is this written. At the present time the American bourgeoisie is deliberately keeping Europe in a condition of decay. Glutted with European blood and gold the American bourgeoisie issues orders to the whole world, sends plenipotentiaries to conferences who are bound by no commitments. These emissaries say nothing but render their own decisions, and from time to time they plant their American foot on the table and the diplomats of the European countries cannot fail to note that this foot is shod in an excellent American boot. And with this boot America dictates her own laws to Europe. The European bourgeoisie, not only of Germany and France but also Britain, begs on its hind legs before the American bourgeoisie which drained Europe in wartime by its support, by its loans, by its gold, and which now keeps Europe in the throes of death-agony. The American bourgeoisie will be repaid by the European proletariat. And this vengeance shall come the sooner, all the firmer our soviet successes are.

Whether our propaganda is good or bad, it remains in either case a third-rate or fourth-rate factor, but our economy is a first-rate factor. Comrade Peasants! – and unless I am mistaken there are non-party peasant comrades present in this hall – I can categorically assure you that each additional sheaf of grain is another small weight placed on the scales of the European revolution. What does the working class of Britain dread? What does the German working class dread? Hungry Europe survived for three war years and in the post-war years on American grain. The American bourgeoisie naturally threatens openly that in the event of new revolutionary convulsions in Europe it will starve the continent by a grain blockade just as Britain and France once threw an industrial blockade around soviet Russia. This is a very important matter in the calculations of the European working class and above all of the German workers. And we, soviet Russia, must say – and prepare this in action – that the European proletarian revolution will eat grain supplied by soviet Russia.

And these words, Comrade Peasants, are not hollow syllables, not empty phrases. The fate of all Europe depends upon the solution of this question. Two courses are possible: either the European proletariat remains terrorized by the American boot, or the European proletariat is backed by the Russian workers and peasants, and thus assured of grain during the difficult days and months of revolution. That is why each economic success in agriculture is a revolutionary deed. And that is why every peasant in soviet Russia – even those who do not know for sure just where Germany, France, or Britain are located on the map – who seeks to grow his crops, who tries to start things rolling again, to help the city and the industry – this peasant is today a better aid to the world, in the first instance, the European, revolution than are all of us old and experienced propagandists put together.

This, Comrades, applies with equal force to our industry. Miserable indeed would be the revolutionary party of Europe that said to itself – no Communist would ever say it – ”I shall bide my time until the soviet republic shows me just how the condition of the working class can be improved under socialism.” No one has the right to bide his time; everybody has the duty to fight side by side with us. But, on the other hand, it is incontestable that each of our economic successes, to the extent that it simultaneously enables us to improve the condition of the working class in Russia while the condition of the working class in Europe is dropping lower rung by rung – yes, it is incontestable that each economic success of ours is the weightiest of arguments, the weightiest propaganda in favour of accelerating – the proletarian revolution in Europe. Power is in our hands; the means of production are in our hands. We hold the frontiers. This, too, is no minor circumstance.

That same American billionaire with his first-class boots could buy up all of our Russia with his billions were our frontiers left open to him. That is why the monopoly of foreign trade is just as much our inalienable revolutionary conquest as is the nationalization of the means of production. That is why the working class and the peasants of Russia will not permit any violation of the monopoly of foreign trade no matter how much pressure is exerted upon us from all the five continents of this globe still under the capitalist yoke. These are our trumps. Only with a correct organization of production can we preserve them, multiply them and not waste them. From this standpoint, Comrades, there must be no self-deception concerning the difficulties of our tasks. This is what we said at the Fourth Congress which took up our New Economic Policy as a special point on its agenda, in connection with the world perspectives. We have listed our big trump cards: state power, transport, the primary means of production in industry, natural resources, nationalization of land, taxes in kind which flow from this nationalized land, and the monopoly of foreign trade. These are first-class trumps. But if one does not know how to use them, it is possible to lose with even better trumps. Comrades, we must learn. At the congress Comrade Lenin in his brief speech laid particular stress upon this, that not only they but we, too, must learn. We must learn how to organize industry correctly, for this correct organization still lies ahead and not behind us. It is our tomorrow and not our yesterday, nor even today.

We are making efforts to stabilize our currency. This was also taken up at the Fourth Congress. Such efforts are indispensable and, naturally, the greater our relative successes in this field, all the easier will be our administrative labours in industry. But we all understand only too clearly that all efforts in the field of finances unaccompanied by genuine material successes in the field of industry must remain mere child’s play. The foundation is our industry; the soviet state rests upon this foundation, thrives with it and secures from it the assurance of the future victories of the working class.

Finally, there is one more trump, one more machine, one other organization that is likewise in our hands. We talked about it more than once at the Fourth Congress. It is our party. I am speaking here first of all before the Communist fraction of the soviet congress and it is necessary in closing to say a few words about our party. From the general analysis it follows that, on the European scale, we are living through a period of recession in the direct revolutionary struggle, and simultaneously through a period of educational work and strengthening of the Communist Party. The development has assumed a retarded and protracted character. This means that we must wait longer for the assistance of the European and, later, of the world proletariat; this means that our party is destined for a long span of time, perhaps for several years, to remain the vanguard of the world revolution.

This is a very great honour. But it is also a great responsibility, a very great burden. We would prefer to have alongside us soviet republics in Germany, Poland and other countries. Our responsibility then would have been less and the difficulties of our position would not have been so great. Our party has old cadres with pre-revolutionary, underground tempering, but they are in the minority. We have in our party hundreds of thousands who in terms of human class material are in no way inferior to the old timers. These hundreds of thousands who poured into our ranks after the revolution possess the advantage of youth but are handicapped by a lesser experience. Comrade Lenin told me (I did not happen to read it myself) that some physician, either a Czech or a German, has written that the Communist Party of Russia consists of a few thousand oldsters and the rest, youth. The conditions of the NEP, he thinks, will tend to reshape our party, and if the old generations – a few thousand strong – depart from activity, the party will be imperceptibly transformed by the elements of the NEP, the elements of capitalism. Here, as you see, is a subtle political and psychological calculation. This calculation is of course false to the core. But at the same time it demands of our party that it give itself an accounting of the protracted character of the revolutionary development and of the difficulties of our position; and that our party double and triple its efforts for the education of its new generations, for attracting the youth and for raising the qualifications of the party mass. In the present conditions this is a life-and-death question for us.

Comrades, I want to refer to still another episode – a very major episode for all of us – and that is the illness of Vladimir Ilyich. Most of you here have not had the opportunity of following the European press. There have been many wild campaigns abroad concerning us and against us, but I do not recall – not even in the days of Kerensky when we were hounded as German spies – such a concentrated campaign of malevolence, of viciousness, and fiendish speculation as the current campaign around the illness of Comrade Lenin. Our enemies of course hoped for the worst outcome, the worst possible personal outcome. At the same time they said that our party is beheaded, split into warring groups, falling apart, and that an opportunity is opening up for their laying hands on Russia. The White Guard scum has talked about it openly, of course. The diplomats, the capitalists of Europe, have hinted about it, understanding each other with half-phrases.

Comrades, in this way they, against their own will and wishes. showed, on the one hand, that they have been able in their own way to appraise the significance of Comrade Lenin to our party and to the revolution; and, on the other hand that they neither know character nor understand – all the worse for them – the nature of our party. It is superfluous for me to talk before the Communist fraction of the soviet congress about the significance of Comrade Lenin to the movement in our country and in the world. But there is, Comrades, a kind of bond that is not only physical but spiritual, an internal, indissoluble bond between the party and the individual who expresses it best, the most fully, and in a way that a genius does. And this has found its expression in the fact that when Comrade Lenin was torn from his work by illness, the party (which knew something about the howling of the bourgeois jackals the world over) awaited, with tense expectation, news and bulletins of Comrade Lenin’s condition, but at the same time not a single muscle in our party trembled, there was not a single vacillation, not a hint of the possibility of internal struggle, and all the less so of split. When Comrade Lenin withdrew from work by order of his physicians, the party understood that now a double and treble responsibility had fallen upon every rank-and-file member; and the party waited in unanimity and with closed ranks for the leader’s return.

Not so long ago I was engaged in conversation by a foreign bourgeois politician who said to me: “I get around a good deal in your party circles and in soviet circles. Of course, there are personal and group conflicts among you but one must give you your due. Whenever the external world, or an external danger, or general tasks are involved, you always straighten out your front.” The last part of his declaration about our straightening out our front gratified me, but the first part, I admit, annoyed me somewhat. To the extent that in such a big party as ours, with such colossal tasks as ours, and under the greatest conceivable difficulties, and with the old timers unquestionably wearing out (as is in the nature of things) – to the extent that some internal dangers could arise in our party, there is not and cannot be any remedy against them other than the raising of the qualification of the entire party and the strengthening of its public opinion so that each member in each post feels the increased pressure of this party public opinion.

These are the conclusions we draw from the overall international situation. The hour of the European revolution will not perhaps strike tomorrow. Weeks and months will pass, maybe several years, and we shall still remain the only workers’-peasants’ state in the world. In Italy Mussolini has triumphed. Are we guaranteed against the victory of German Mussolinis in Germany? Not at all. And it is wholly possible that a much more reactionary ministry than Poincaré’s will come to power in France. Before squatting down on its hind legs and pushing its Kerensky to the fore, the bourgeoisie is still quite capable of advancing its last Stolypins, Plehves, Sipyagins. [12] This will be the prologue to the European revolution, provided we are able to maintain ourselves, provided the soviet state remains standing, and, consequently, provided above all that our party is able to maintain itself to the end. We shall perhaps have to pass through more than one year of this preparatory economic, political and other kinds of work.

Therefore we must draw closer to our mass reserves. More youth around our party and within it! Raise its qualifications to the maximum! Given this condition of complete cohesion and with the raising of our party’s qualifications, with the transfer of experience from the old to the new generation, no matter what storms – these heralds of the final proletarian victory – may break over our heads, we shall stand firm in our knowledge that the soviet frontier is the trench beyond which the counter-revolution cannot pass. This trench is manned by us, by the vanguard of soviet Russia, by the Communist Party, and we shall preserve this trench inviolate and impregnable until that day when the European revolution arrives, and over the whole of Europe there shall wave the banner of the soviet republic of the United States of Europe, the threshold to the World Socialist Republic.

(Long and stormy ovation)

(Shouts: Long Live the Leader of the Red Army, Comrade Trotsky! Long Live Comrade Lenin!)


1. This subtitle stems from the New Park edition.

2. The offensive on Warsaw was opposed by Leon Trotsky, for the reasons he explained in his autobiography. The scope of the defeat below Warsaw was due primarily to the conduct of the “Western group of the Southern armies,” which was then under the political control of Stalin. “He (Stalin),” wrote Trotsky in his biography of Stalin, “wanted at any cost to enter Lwow at the same time that Smilga and Tukhachevsky were to enter Warsaw ... At this decisive moment, the line of operations on the Southwestern Front diverged at right angles from the line of operations on the main Western Front: Stalin was waging his own war.”

3. Tardieu, one of the arch-reactionary leaders of the victorious French bourgeoisie, advocated the domestic policy of ruthlessly suppressing French labor and the French revolutionary movement. The pivot of his foreign policy was the merciless pillage of defeated Germany.

4. Kuno, a big German capitalist, headed the German Cabinet in 1922-23. His government discredited itself during the days of the Ruhr occupation by granting huge subsidies to the leading German monopolies. Kuno was forced to resign in August 1923 under the pressure of the great strike wave of this period. [The name is usually spelled “Cuno”. – TIA]

5. Rasputinism was a term denoting the complete corruption and denegeration of the Czarist court. Rasputin, an ordinary monk, wormed his way through various intrigues into the top ruling circles and in 1912-16 acquired unbounded influence over the Czar and his family, and actually dictated the Czar’s policy on various questions.

6. This prognosis of the possible “order of revolutions” was retained by Leon Trotsky until 1930, when he wrote: “It is not at all permanently established that the United States will be last in the order of revolutionary primacy, condemned to reach its proletarian revolution only after the countries of Europe and Asia. A situation, a combination of forces is possible in which the order is changed and the tempo of development in the United States enormously accelerated. But that means that it is necessary to prepare.” (See The Militant, May 10 1930.)

7. Soutif was closely associated with Andre Morizet, the author of a book entitled A Visit to Lenin and Trotsky. Morizet served as mayor of one of the Parisian suburbs. He and Soutif were among the group of French opportunists who temporarily belonged to the French CP and occupied prominent positions in it.

8. Burtsev, an old Social Revolutionist, was famous in pre-revolutionary Russia as a specialist in exposing Czarist provocateurs and agents in the ranks of the revolutionary movement. During the war of 1914-18 he became a chauvinist and after the October Revolution, a supporter of the White Guards.

9. In October 1923, at the height of the revolutionary ferment in Germany, the Brandler leadership of the German CP formed in coalition with the Socialists a “Workers’ Government” in Saxony. While the German leadership vacillated on the question of assuming the power and while Stalin, behind the scenes, sabotaged the 1923 revolution, the Saxon Communists became absorbed in “constructive measures” instead of turning their position into one of the revolutionary strongholds, as Trotsky advised. The Berlin government sent troops which drove out this coalition government.

10. Lozovsky, later a pillar of Stalinism, was at the time the General Secretary of the Red Trade Union International, In December 1922, as the representative of the Russian Trade Unions, Lozovsky went to the Hague Congress called by the Amsterdam Trade Union International to discuss the struggle against war.

11. In Lenin’s lifetime, the Lux Hotel in Moscow was used to house workers and delegates to the Third International.

12. Stolypin, Plehve, Sipyagin were the inspirers of Czarist reaction toward the end of the last century. Their names became synonymous with the hated autocracy, which sought to stamp out the revolutionary movement by savage repressive measures. Plehve was assassinated in 1904. Sipyagin, who served as Czarist Minister of Internal Affairs in the Nineties, was assassinated in 1902.

First 5 Years of the Comintern (Vol.2) Index

History of the Communist International Section

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Last updated on: 18.1.2007