«‹Left-Wing› Communism, an Infantile Disorder» – Condemnation of the renegades to come
II. Russia’s or mankind’s history
Russian and world revolution
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By understanding the orderly exposition of Lenin’s work – which, owing to «urgent» needs, preluded the theoretical settlement of the IInd world congress theses (Lenin widely participated in person to such a work), and which was given, awaiting such theses, in its second edition the subheading: Popular conversation essay on marxist strategy and tactics (the classical Imperialism itself, owing to the author’s modesty, was subheaded as popular essay) – we will wonder whether all those who quote it, in accordance with the fashion, against the Communist Left, against the only current faithful to marxism, have ever read its first page.
The first page is sufficient to destroy the masterpiece of Stalinist infamy, which for its counterrevolutionary consequences beat by far the inglorious deeds of any socialpatriots of 1914; i.e., the ignoble «theory» of socialism in one country. Meantime, both Stalin-Khruschevian newspapers and the «rectified» short course of the bolshevik communist party history still keep saying that such alleged theory was founded by Lenin!
Which right-wing socialist of the IInd International has ever gone so far as writing an out-and-out forgery such as the following, from «Unità» of August 31st, 1960?
«From the mistaken assumption that the conquests of the socialist revolution in Russia could only be defended by the support of a world socialist revolution, the ‹leftists› drew the conclusion that the task of the soviet power was in the first place of stirring up the revolution in other countries, through a war against world imperialism».
Here is the first forgery against the left, who wanted to stir up the revolution outside Russia by means of the action of the International of communist parties, and not with a war of the Russian state. This idea rather characterises the early «Stalinism», as distinct from the modern and far more infamous khruschevism.
But the gigantic forgery is at Lenin’s expense:
«Lenin proved» the new manual points out «that this theory of ‹stirring up› the international revolution had nothing in common with marxism, according to which the development of revolution depends on the maturing of class struggle within the capitalist countries. It is a matter of fact one of the presuppositions of the leninist conception of 'peaceful coexistence…» !
Thus, for the compilers of the new manual (which is boasted as free from certain forgeries of the first one, such as Trotsky’s conspiracy to kill Lenin at the time of Brest-Litovsk, but which keeps carrying the lie that Trotsky did not follow Lenin’s policy), marxism-leninism must be the theory for the revolution’s sleeping.
We reminded that the first chapter deals with the international importance of the Russian revolution. Those who read again the explicit definition of Lenin on the characters of the Russian revolution being of a general, international significance, should not forget the official thesis of present day leninists, of the kind of Khruschev and Togliatti. Since the XXth Russian congress these gentlemen have proclaimed that each country has its own «national way» to socialism, which will therefore be, according to the circumstances, somehow different from the Russian way. What are then, according to this concoction, the characters of the Russian revolution that would not be, to use a term of Lenin, essential in all other revolutions? They don’t make a mystery of it. Proletarian dictatorship, soviet system, revolutionary terrorism, and, why not, insurrectional violence, are all supposed to be merely accidental and fortuitously Russian. The destruction of parliament itself (Constituent Assembly) would have been a peculiarity of the Russian revolution and not, as we exulted at the time, enthusiastic and unanimous in principle with the true Lenin, the first accomplishment of the marxist theory of proletarian revolution, we were waiting for in all countries.
«In the first months after the proletariat in Russia had won political power (October 25 – November 7, 1917), it might have seemed that the enormous difference between backward Russia and the advanced countries of Western Europe would lead to the proletarian revolution in the latter countries bearing very little resemblance to ours.»
It is already worthwhile to stop a little, although this is a popular essay, and not a palimpsest. Lenin does not compare the Russian revolution with world revolution, he speaks about Western Europe. As a matter of fact, in 1920 Lenin, as well as ourselves (nothing prevents anybody to proclaim both fouls, but it is forbidden to claim to be leninists those who think with a reversed tendency in every field), was not so much expecting the revolution in Asia or America, but between Russia and the Atlantic Ocean. Such was the condition for the Russian revolution not to historically capitulate, as it had to.
Why did it seem that the development of revolution in West Europe was to be dissimilar to that of Russia, and in what sense? Russia was backward, above all politically, as it had come out of feudal despotism only a few months before and therefore its revolution could be different from that of a country where despotism and feudalism had been overthrown centuries before, as in France or England. This, and all other actual differences, could have suggested the expectation for the Russian proletarian revolution to be less dazzling, more uncertain, hesitant, if compared to that of fully capitalist countries, where it could quite rightly be expected as more clear-cut, decided, overwhelming. It is enough to think that the hegemony of the proletariat and of its party on the «remaining working people», central postulate of this work of Lenin, would have been in the industrial Western Europe far more easy and complete.
Only some philistines of the IInd International, who were to be surpassed only by those disgusting ones risen from the corpse of the IIIrd, could insinuate that proletarian terror, dictatorship, wiping out of parliament, were not European but «Asiatic» characteristics – since then such a ludicrous commonplace was coined.
The opportunists of that time did so to put to shame red Russia, the present day more infamous ones repeat it, pretending everyone to believe that in that way they're extolling it.
If the Russian revolution got rid of a parliament just a few months after the institution of a true electoral system, what would have been the presumable difference for the countries that had been parliamentarian for a century? It takes the horny face of today’s traitors to insinuate that in these countries parliament becomes a possible way to socialism (have the social democrats in the last century said worse?), and that therefore in Russia it was bayoneted away for fun, for carelessness, or because the great Vladimir was drunk on vodka.
Lenin writes to establish that, in spite of the radical diversity between the starting social and historical situations, the essential processes of the bolshevik revolution will take place in all countries. What are such processes? The thorough study of this work, as well as of the whole body of non-counterfeit marxist-leninist works, enables us to answer clearly. It is understood that whoever believes that the events of forty years have imparted an opposite course to history may do so, together with abjuring marxism-leninism.
«We now» (April 1920) «possess quite considerable international experience, which shows very definitely that certain fundamental features of our revolution have a significance that is not local, or peculiarly national, or Russian alone, but international.» (op. cit., p.512)
Here the writer is afraid of being misunderstood and intends to specify.
«I am not speaking here of international significance in the broad sense of the term: not merely several but all the primary features of our revolution, and many of its secondary features, are of international significance in the meaning of its effect on all countries. I am speaking of it in the narrowest sense of the word, taking international significance to mean the international validity» (it would be maybe better translated with the word value) «or the historical inevitability of a repetition, on an international scale, of what has taken place in our country. It must be admitted that certain fundamental features of our revolution do possess that significance.» (op. cit., 512)
Certain, and not all? It is precisely the thesis of the left in the communist international congresses. Lenin explains it immediately after. But it is worth pointing out why in the broad sense all events are of world significance, and in the narrow sense only some, that get (or rather are confirmed) into the marxist programme of revolution, are such. The liquidation of the imperial family was of the utmost international importance, and there’s still cackling about it. But in the narrow sense it is not a feature to be «anywhere inevitably repeated». In countries without a dynasty there won’t be such a necessity. The sons of the Tsar were killed for the dynastical right of succession; where such a right does not exist the killing is useless.
Therefore, the features, valid in the narrow sense for all revolutions outside of Russia, will only be some, not all; some will not be valid. Which ones and why? It is enough to read carefully, and it can be learnt by a passage of the utmost importance.
«It would, of course, be grossly erroneous to exaggerate this truth and to extend it beyond certain fundamental features of our revolution. It would also be erroneous to lose sight of the fact that, soon after the victory of the proletarian revolution in at least one of the advanced countries, a sharp change will probably come about: Russia will cease to be the model and will once again become a backward country (in the ‹Soviet› and the socialist sense).» (op. cit., p.512)
It is a central idea of leninism: the revolution will soon spread in Europe. After its victory, in Germany for instance, Russia will end up at the back in the social path leading to economical socialism, as the German structure will leave it far behind. Lenin’s idea is completed by the concept that, beside a soviet Germany or, better, beside a soviet Europe, social Russia will be able to shorten the path from its old economies to capitalism, and from this, although in a state form, to socialism.
Such a doctrine is just a negation of that, inane, of the country of socialism, and of the model country, of the leading country, which indecently prevailed after Lenin. Between the theory of the model to imitate, and that of Russia at the rear of the revolution, lies the same contradiction existing between the degenerate national way to socialism and the above mentioned, strong statement:
«historical inevitability of a repetition, on an international scale, of what has taken place in our country».
The theory of the Russian model was just the first formulation of the present-day superstition of emulative coexistence.
On the return from Russia in 1920, in front of hosts of proletarians who seemed to be expecting the description of a promised land, we, humble pupils of the great Lenin, resolutely fought the belief that we had gone to see socialism the way it was, it worked, as if it were a child’s toy, or a sort of sputnik, an invented, created thing.
Although socialism had not yet existed on earth, we knew, as marxists, the way it had to be, and we were sure of it, for the world and for Russia, where the shining human mechanism had not yet started functioning. Splendid was the force of marching revolution, hard, painful and accepted, towards the far communist joy: all European proletarians had to, and only they could, give it to themselves and to the Russians, once they'd been able to overthrow all the continent’s bourgeois states.
The antimarxist and antileninist position, living in the present day’s wicked theory of coexistence, lies in the theory of the model. Gramsci personified in Italy such a gross error when he commented upon October, by writing: «Revolution against ‹The Capital›». According to historical materialism the proletarian revolution in Russia, where capitalism was not sufficiently developed, was impossible; if it had won, the conclusion to draw was obvious: both economical determinism and materialism are wrong; true and shining is instead voluntarist idealism, with Lenin as the hero of the myth, who had been able to force history and to create, from the most adverse conditions, the Model, the so much longed-for Utopia. There was nothing to do but to make a pilgrimage to kiss the hem of the Prophet’s chlamys: to contemplate the model and to report its description and secret to the awaiting Western masses, who were to copy it.
But Lenin is there; without posing as a messiah, and therefore so much more simple and great. He refers in all respects to the materialism of Marx, enlightens with his dialectics the history he is living, and laughs at the model; which is as such a poor thing, and it will not take a long time to become obsolete, and he believes and wishes it will happen.
Those who believed him to be the «Capital»’s executioner will bow their heads and open their eyes to the light: Gramsci actually did it, as long as his poor physical force sustained the acuteness of his look.
Today the blue light of Vladimir’s eyes is also dead, but among many things we have left is his disparagement of the silly idea of the model to be imitated, which is sufficient to confound forever, with his typical, pitiless, polemical power, the senseless construction according to which the world turns communist thanks to a miraculous imitation.
The Russian revolution did not therefore have, in the leninian outlook, the function to show to the world a socialist structure, but rather a different and far greater international function, that of teaching by which sole means and arms, everywhere, the power of capital and all its associates could be overthrown.
Such a teaching already existed within the fundamental lines of the doctrine, but for the first time it could be verified in deeds, in history.
It was not a matter of taking pictures of the Russian framework – though if at that time it was much less contaminated than today by the real stigmata of mercantile capitalism, emulating this damned West – but, if such an image can be allowed, of having the motion picture of the revolutionary event, and from it to draw what could be called the decisive sequences, universally valid for all Europe.
In this way a dynamic, not static, model appeared to our overwhelming enthusiasm of that glorious time: not a cloying recipe, but rather the eruptive flaming of the social palingenensis.
Lenin says it thusly:
«At the present moment in history, however, it is the Russian model that reveals to all» (it’s he that underlines, dear scoundrels) «countries something – and something highly significant – of their near and inevitable future.» (op. cit., p. 512)
We may have said it in a too long-winded way, but the demonstration is important to us. Our model is not a present «project» for a present reproduction, but rather the meaning of a lesson of the past, that must serve for an inevitable future.
Although man is an ingenuously imitative animal, and the humanity of 1960 is giving pitiful proofs of it, in 1920 we clearly saw in such a charge the power of the leap from past to future, as well as the faith of immense multitudes in the infallibility of the great revolutionary theory.
We were living a fervent and fertile epoch. Lenin wrote:
«Advanced workers in all lands have long realised this; more often than not, they have grasped it with their revolutionary class instinct rather than realised it.» (op. cit., p. 512)
Not culture, emulating the bourgeois schools, but instinct!
In the course of his outstanding study Lenin will indicate to us the various essential traits of the universal revolutionary line.
«Herein lies the international ‹significance› (in the narrow sense of the word) of Soviet power, and of the fundamentals of Bolshevik theory and tactics.« (op. cit., p. 512)
Here the introductory chapter of «‹Left-wing› communism» somehow digresses, owing to the requirements of polemics, that we will see being of the utmost importance, and involving topical comments. But the above words enable us to annotate what Lenin promises to specify as the content of the fundamental (we would rather say always valid) traits of the Russian revolution.
They are the «principal» ones, and Lenin admits that there are two kinds of them: of bolshevik theory and tactics.
What characterised, with international repercussions, the glorious bolshevik communist party is a system of principles within its doctrine. But nobody has the right t o say that the theory is bound to a system of principles, while tactics can be free, unprejudiced. What in several congresses at Moscow our left maintained, lies on this position of Lenin himself: also for tactics, and not only for the theory, it is necessary to establish a system of principles; besides, they must be valid for all countries and parties of the International. The «Rome Theses» of 1922 were a proof of it.
The text accuses the treacherous leaders of the IInd International and the centrist leaders such as Kautsky, Bauer, Adler, who – though if not vulgar social patriots –, not having understood the general validity of the system of theoretical and tactical principles that led the bolshevik party to victory, «proved to be reactionaries» and traitors. Here Lenin slaps the pedantry, meanness and ignominy of a pamphlet (that was of Bauer) called «The World Revolution», that hypocritically contrasts the imaginary democratic, peaceful and bloodless (we have today the right to add «emulative») features of the world revolution with those of the Russian revolution; as a matter of fact, with those of its features that must belong to all revolutions, in the line of which in 1920 – knowing that everything was at stake – the revolutionary battle in Western Europe was given.
After this lash for the centrists Lenin, having named Kautsky, wants to show that when he was a marxist, as far back as 1902, he wrote an article entitled «The Slavs and Revolution», where he admitted that the guidance of the European revolution might pass into the hands of the Russian proletarians; after that the revolutionary centre had been in France in the first half of the 19th century, and at times in England, and in Germany in the second half.
How well Karl Kautsky wrote eighteen years ago, exclaims Lenin, who, until his not remote death, always wrote in the same manner. Today we can echo: how well Kautsky wrote fiftyeight years ago!
The ice crust shut on the ultra-memorable exploit of Slav proletarians, and on the gravestone of such ice is written: pacifism, coexistence, détente, democratic and parliamentary way to socialism!
Whereas Lenin exposed the infamous League of Nations as a fortress of capital, today’s Russia, that abjured him writes such tombs tone inscriptions on the no less sordid green tables of the United Nations Organisation.
Marxist revolutionaries are certainly not bringing about an Olympiad of modern times, in which the flame of communist revolution is handed down. But Marx and Engels, a not yet lifeless Kautsky and an always bright Lenin, saw such a passing from England or France to Germany and to Russia; today Russia has fallen after being covered with glory. Today, we are sure that the great flame will flare up again and we are thinking of Western Europe as Lenin described it at the beginning of «‹Left wing› communism», only chance of a rise against the emulative oppression of both the shameful America and the degenerate Russia; maybe by levering, while the sinister diplomats of both sides lewdly manoeuvre the issue of the roughshod ridden Germany, upon such a country that (although in the long term) can see in its history a proletarian revolution, rising against both Russia and America, no matter if they will be enemies or friends.
Or perhaps the half century, that whites have lost, will be recovered in the march, roaringly accelerating of their yellow and black brothers.
We shall not leave this introductory chapter of Lenin’s text without developing some inferences that are in his destroying attack upon Karl Kautsky, Otto Bauer and Friedrich Adler, as it is for us of an immense importance the fact that Lenin has always levelled his hardest strokes against such people, called in those years centrists, independents, second and half internationalists, halfway between the IInd and the IIIrd. Lenin regards them as more dangerous than the rightists, socialdemocrats or social patriots, open allies and cops of the bourgeoisie, whose names were Scheidemann, Noske, Vandervelde, MacDonald, etc., with their war and post-war shameful deeds.
As a matter of fact Kautsky was in Germany the first one to set up an opposition against the social patrioteering parliamentary majority (it must not be forgotten, as regards the sum total of parliamentarism we will deal with in its due place, that Karl Liebknecht himself, en August 14, 1914, bowing to party discipline, that was by the way the discipline of the parliamentary group, voted silently, sad to say, in favour of the war credits to the Kaiser’s government). In Austria Bauer and Fritz Adler, son of Victor, the old marxist, were the leaders of what is called Austro-Marxism (as if there could be national marxism!): in Vienna Fritz was tried for his brave opposition to the war.
But such people maintained, as theoreticians – and they made the most of such a reputation –, that there was incompatibility between marxism and dictatorship, and acidly defamed bolshevism and leninism as a violation of sound socialism. According to them, marxists had the duty of not breaking the rules of free, democratic consensus, of masses acceptance, of the liberal-democratic opinion of the majority of «citizens»; and they were the ones who created the most shameful falsification of Marx.
Lenin springs on them with fire and sword, and as witnesses and militants of that historical battle to the death, we have not forgotten such an historical teaching. We venture to say today that such a real, practical, material behaviour, that our everlasting contradictors would call with the parabourgeois adjective «concrete», is more meaningful, as both style and teaching, then the unsurpassed written form itself of Lenin’s polemics. Owing to his tremendous responsibilities before history, this extremely unscholastic leader of the masses was not to lay himself open to the easy criticism of renegades, in face of the immaturity of proletarians, who were coming out of a recent antidespotic revolution; which would have happened, had he openly written: We don’t give a damn about referendums and numerically expressed consensuses; on the contrary, we are certain that when we go in the direction, opposite to that of such pathological remains of bourgeois time slavery and servilism, then we are on the straight and narrow.
But those who were young at the time, and had undergone no corruption, could not forget the norm (though if not written in theses or theory book): Ferociously thrash those who appear closest politically speaking; and you’ll never be wrong!
On the one hand we have the example of Lenin, i.e., of the revolutionary of those years, within the reality of combats among millions of men; on the other hand is the pitiful and infamous end of fools, who, making a wide use of a shameless falsification of what Lenin wrote, and did, have followed the opposite norm, that consists in the bloc, the front, the isolation to the right of a fictitious enemy, which is just the repetition of what the traitors of World War 1 did. The champions of the third historical wave of opportunist plague did not stop themselves at the bloc with centre- and right-wing socialists, they’ve gone far beyond – not just in war time but even in peace time –, up until the bloc with bourgeois democrats and liberals, and with Catholics. On a social standpoint, not only a bloc with corrupted proletarians, but with petty-bourgeois, up to an open collaboration with the middle classes.
Theoretical questions cannot be separated from practical ones. Lenin did not merely delight in confounding these professors about their false exegesis of Marx; there was much more. Those scoundrels, at the very moment when armies, supported by the bourgeoisies of the West, were dashing to bloodily quench the bolshevik power and the revolution as a whole, solidarised with the whites wished their victory, as a punition for the crimes of «dictatorship» and «terrorism» committed by the glorious leninist vanguard. We then learnt that always, when the proletarian victory will be about to be achieved in the only «inevitably foreseeable» historical way, such front-loving riff-raff will behave in this manner, and the proletariat, if not aware of it, will fall betrayed.
It is not by accident that, when Kautsky, the most truculent antibolshevik, wrote as described above, while in Russia the answers were gunshots, Lenin would draw up «Proletarian dictatorship and the renegade Kautsky», and Trotsky would write the formidable text «Terrorism and Communism».
In what do Kautsky and bad company differ from those who today proclaim that dictatorship and terror were methods «peculiar to Russia 1917», that the other countries are now to be spared? Aren’t they too, as Lenin pronounced in a sentence with no appeal, liberal-marxists, marxists gone over, bag and baggage, to liberalism and the bourgeoisie?
Today the names of Messrs. Bauer and Adler can still be written (see Rome’s «Messagero» of September 2, 1960), to remember their criticism of bolshevism, and at the same time to declare beaten their theory on a successful proletarian and socialist movement «without dictatorship and terror»; which in substance is right (it’s always the same old story, from the opposite extremity one can see better than from the benches next to us, if we are allowed to use such an image, worthy of the parliamentary side-show) .
A Pole, Deutscher, after Stalin’s death wrote a book entitled «Russia after Stalin». The idea of this recent writer is that modern Russia is evolving toward a liberal, or socialdemocratic form, however it may be called. But another, American, «russologist», Croan, contested Deutscher’s thesis as not being new, as it is the same of famous Otto Bauer’s 1931 book: «Capitalism and socialism toward the world war».
If after forty years we still have in the way an Otto Bauer, that Lenin had forever got rid of, whose fault is it, but of the alleged pupils and filthy falsifiers of leninism?