G. Zinoviev

Problems of the German Revolution

The Foreign Political Difficulties
of the German Revolution

(22 November 1923)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 72 [48], 22 November 1923, pp. 820–821.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, May 2023.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The difficulties confronting the German proletarian revolution, in the problems raised by the relation of forces at home, sink into nothingness when compared with the difficulties facing it from abroad; these will arise on every side as soon as proletarian power has won the victory in Germany. The danger of immediate war on the part of the French, Czech, and Polish bourgeoisie, the possibility of an English blockade – these are most important international political difficulties lying in the path of the German revolution.

The proletarian revolution in Germany, from its first steps onward, is of greater international significance than even the Russian revolution. Germany is a more developed country than Russia, Germany is in the centre of Europe. Germany may be designated the central nerve of Europe. The fate of the Germany of today is closely bound up with the fate of France. The proletarian upheaval in Berlin is bound almost automatically to call forth this or that intervention from Paris, the main centre of present-day international reaction. Germany possesses a mighty proletariat, one which only needs to stir its great limbs in order to upset the balance of any other country venturing to make war on revolutionary Germany. The mighty power of the German proletariat may serve to secure peace for the whole of Europe. The German generals are anxious for a war of revenge, the German workers are anxious for peace. The foreign political difficulties are the Achilles’ heel of the German revolution.

The advantages possessed by Soviet Russia, when it entered the world arena in 1917, were as follows: Above all, the “others” were still at war. International imperialism was divided into two camps, and these were fighting to the death. It was difficult for international imperialism to unite immediately against Soviet Russia. The strife between the imperialist robbers in the two camps gave the new-born Soviet Russia breathing space.

In the second place, Soviet Russia was saved by the enormous extent of its territory. We were able to gain time by giving way over great areas. Soviet Russia complained of being “surrounded” by the bourgeoisie, and in point of fact this being “surrounded” was of no little detriment to the proletarian state: intervention, blockade, etc. But it was not by any means possible for the bourgeoisie to “surround” Soviet Russia so immediately as it can Germany, and therefore the danger was not so great.

But on the other hand the Russian revolution lacked other advantages which are at the disposal of the German. Above all, the Russian revolution was the first revolution, whilst the German proletarian revolution is able to utilize the experience – and not only the experience – of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (Soviet Russia), which has already existed as a workers’ state for 6 years; the proletarian revolution in Russia suffered, however, the disadvantage of beginning at a time, 1917, when there were no Communist Parties at all in other countries, or these were but small weak groups. The German revolution begins at a time when the Communist International has already existed for about 5 years, when the Communist movement has spread over the whole world, and when the Communists have become a great power in the decisive countries of Europe. “Organizatory experience” has been gained by both parties, by the international bourgeoisie and the international proletariat alike. The struggle will therefore be the more determined.

In the years 1923–1924 we do not find two sharply defined imperialist groups fighting one another in the world’s arena, as was the case in 1914–1917, when the imperialism of the Entente was at war with the group antagonistic to it. On the other hand, however, the mutual struggles within the Entente itself arc assuming an increasingly obstinate and permanent character. It is true that the imperialists arc not openly at war with one another, but the profound enmity which exists is growing from day to day. It suffices to point out the competitive armaments of France and England. The international bourgeoisie is disintegrated by inner antagonisms and constant competitive struggles.

There can be no doubt but that international imperialism will attempt to create a united front against the German proletarian revolution. But what degree of success will be here attained! is very much in question. The history of the struggle of the international bourgeoisie against the Russian revolution in the course of 6 years has shown the formation of such a united front to be no such easy matter for the bourgeoisie. In the camp of the imperialist bourgeoisie there will doubtless be two political systems fighting with reference to the German revolution. The one system may be designated as annexionist and imperialist, the other as social and class-conscious in the widest sense of the word.

The limited imperialist interests of various cliques of the international bourgeoisie will spur on influential circles of this bourgeoisie simply to enrich themselves by means of the German revolution, to annex this or that tract of territory (Ruhr valley, East Prussia, etc.). Various influential cliques of the international bourgeoisie will arrange their plans on the assumption that a Communist government in Germany is the best road to its disruption, will most weaken their competitors, will render possible the annexation of certain parts of German territory, etc. Such an idea as this may prevent “them” from forming a compact and completely united front of the international bourgeoisie against the German revolution – in a similar manner as was repeatedly the case with reference to the Russian revolution in the period 1917–1923. Wilhelm II, when his troops were in Pskov, pursued precisely such an annexationist imperialist policy, and pushed all social and class criteria into the background.

It must, of course, not be forgotten that at that time Wilhelm 11 was fighting to the death with Entente imperialism.

It need not be emphasized that the German revolutionary proletariat must adapt its tactics to the possibility of difficult issues, that is, it must be prepared for the eventuality that international imperialism may regard the German revolution not merely as a separate episode, but as an event decisive for the destinies of the whole of bourgeois Europe. If international imperialism arrives at this estimate, it may immediately draw the logical practical conclusions from it.

France, England, Poland, Czechoslovakia – these are the most important countries likely to intervene immediately in the course of the revolution in Germany.

In this sense the fate of the German proletarian revolution will not only be decisive for Germany, but also for England, France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.

England. Suggestions may already be seen in the English imperialist press pointing out the advisability of having Baltic ports occupied by the English fleet, that “English interests” may be secured in case of a revolution. That wing of the English bourgeoisie likely to propose a more or less neutral attitude with regard to the German revolution will probably be fairly influential. But even if England should decide to employ the blockade against proletarian Germany, this blockade will not possess any decisive significance. And the England of today is not capable of putting a great continental army in the field against the German revolution.

France. In a military way imperialist France doubtless represents a very great power. France possesses complete supremacy with respect to air equipment, technics, and everything pertaining to war. But should France be seized with the idea of occupying revolutionary Germany on any great scale, she would require hundreds of thousands of men for this purpose (probably no fewer than a million). This army would finally be overtaken by a like fate to that of the army of Wilhelm II during the occupation of revolutionary Ukraine. In such a war the decisive factor would doubtless be the trend of feeling of the troops. And in such a war the moral preponderance would be entirely on the side of proletarian Germany and its allies. The idea cherished by some leaders of the French bourgeoisie, of crushing the German revolution with the aid of black troops only, would be a perfectly hopeless undertaking. Black workers, of whom some thousands are employed in the hardest municipal work in Paris, arc already taking part in the economic strikes, side by side with the Communist workers.

It may safely be maintained that, should imperialist France declare immediate open war against revolutionary Germany, the German proletarian revolution will be capable of presenting an extremely powerful resistance to imperialist France. The revolutionary influence of the German events will be particularly powerful in France in this case.

Poland. There arc certain strata of the Polish bourgeoisie which may prove the most dangerous and bitter enemies of the German revolution. Even should the French imperialists not risk sending their own troops against the German revolution, they will not hesitate to send bourgeois Poland into the battle. It is easier to risk the life of a vassal than one’s own. Should that section of the Polish bourgeoisie which is most inclined for adventures actually agree to play the role of hangman of the German revolution, it would sign its own death warrant by so doing. The sinister inheritance of nationalist feeling, still influencing wide masses of the Polish proletariat, will be swept away most rapidly by precisely the proletarian revolution in Germany. The more ambiguous the attitude adopted by the Polish Socialist Party towards the German revolution, and the greater the inclination shown by its leaders to support the adventure plunged into by the Polish bourgeoisie at the behest of French militarism, the more rapidly will the Polish proletariat emancipate itself from the nationalism of the Polish S.P. The ruling sections of the Polish bourgeoisie are oppressing the Ukrainians, the Lithuanians, the Germans, and the Jews. As soon as the Polish bourgeoisie stirs as much as a finger towards beginning a war of conquest against the German revolution (or against Soviet Russia), it will speedily be convinced that it has been standing on the crust of a volcano, and it will find that the national question in Poland is more difficult to solve than ever.

Czecho-Slovakia. The geographical situation of Czecho-Slovakia is such that it could play an important part in the suppression of the proletarian revolution in Germany. The frontier troops of the Czecho-Slovakian bourgeoisie could be in Dresden within a few hours. But the nationality problems of Czecho-Slovakia are again a stumbling block in the way of all united counter-revolutionary action on the part of its bourgeoisie. It is, besides, not impossible that even among the bourgeoisie people may be found capable of grasping the fact that a White Germany would signify a serious danger to the Czccho-Slovakia State, and that Soviet Germany would at least not threaten the existence of Czecho-Slovakia. The powerful Czecho-Slovakia proletariat, headed by the Communist Party, will prove capable of fulfilling its historical mission.

A victorious proletarian revolution in Germany would probably be the signal for a great movement in Austria for affiliation with Germany. The Austrian workers would be able to play a not unimportant part against the Bavarian Fascisti, who, it is now perfectly clear, are going to form the German Vendée. Reactionary Hungary has already reached such a stage of internal crisis that it no longer comes in question as an active power for the suppression of the German revolution or for war against the allies of Soviet Germany. The victorious German revolution will call forth unexampled enthusiasm, and awaken the slumbering power of the French, Polish, and Czecho-Slovakia proletariat.

The Communist Parties in France, Czecho-Slovakia, and Poland, will find themselves faced by gigantic tasks. They will have to exert their utmost endeavors for the organization of immediate and open revolutionary support of the proletarian government of Germany by the proletariat of their countries. The German proletarian government, after the revolution, will not reject the idea of buying itself off from the Entente imperialists on certain conditions. It may be that it will make payments to the French government as laid down in the Versailles Treaty, should the price thus paid enable it to purchase peace, the withdrawal of troops from the Ruhr area, etc.

It may be that the German revolution has also to undergo its Brest-Litovsk. The possibility of this is not excluded. At any rate the C.P. of Germany – the leading power in the impending German revolution – does not absolutely refuse to face such a possibility. We can imagine the German proletarian revolution proceeding even under such conditions as those of Brest. This does not by any means signify a failure of courage, a clipping of the wings of the German revolution. The force of attraction of the approaching German revolution is not thereby weakened in the least. It is merely that we do not enter the German revolution so ignorant, so lacking in political experience, as we entered the October revolution in Russia in 1917. We are only too well aware of the powers of the international bourgeoisie. We do not forget for a moment that these powers are even more dangerous and threatening for the German revolution than for the Russian. We are fully cognisant of the fact that the millions of people entering the revolution do not want war, but peace, however high the price at which it is bought.

But should the international bourgeoisie attempt immediate open war against the German proletarian revolution, it is possible that foreign imperialism may win initial successes, but its final and speedy defeat is inevitable. The 60 millions of the German people, led by a proletarian government, will be able to repulse the foreign conquerors, and the German proletarian revolution, despite all obstacles, will be victorious.

Last updated on 3 May 2023