Open Letter



Next we have to take up the defence of the Left Wing on the quest­ion of Parli­a­ment­arism[1]. The same universal theor­et­ical grounds that we dealt with for the Trade Unions, determine the attitude of the Left Wing in this quest­ion also. The fact that the prole­tariat stands alone, the gigantic force of the enemy, and conse­qu­ently the necess­ity for the mass to raise itself to a much higher level, and to rely entirely on its own support. I need not repeat these grounds here. Here, how­ever, there are a few more grounds than on the Trade Union quest­ion.


Subjects of Bour­ge­ois Democracy

In the first place, the work­ers of West­ern Europe and the working masses in gen­eral are completely subjected, as far as ideas are concerned, to the bour­ge­ois syst­em of representation, to parli­a­ment­arism, to bour­ge­ois democracy. Much more so than the work­ers of Eastern Europe. Here bour­ge­ois ideology has taken a strong hold on the whole of social and poli­ti­cal life. It has pene­tr­ated far more into the heads and hearts of the work­ers. Here they have already been brought up in that ideology for hundreds of years. These ideas have altogether saturated the workers.

These relations have been very well depicted by Comrade Pannekoek in the Viennese periodical, Communismus:

“The experience of Germany places us face to face with the great problem of the revo­lution in West­ern Europe. In these countries the old bour­ge­ois method of production, and the corresponding highly developed culture of many centuries, have made a thorough imp­ression on the thoughts and feel­ings of the masses. Consequently the spiritual and mental character of the masses here is quite different from that of the Eastern countries, where they had not experienced this domination of bour­ge­ois culture. And herein above all lies the diff­er­ence in the progress of the revo­lution in the East and in the West. In England, France, Holland, Scandinavia, Italy and Germany, ever since the middle ages there has been a strong bour­ge­oisie, with petty-bour­ge­ois and primitive capit­al­ist production; whilst feudalism was being def­eated, an equally strong, independent peasantry sprang up in the country, which was master in its own small sphere.

On this soil bour­ge­ois civic spiritual life developed into a firm national culture, especially in the coastlands of England and France, which were most advanced by capit­al­ist development. In the nine­teenth century capi­tal­ism, by bringing the whole of agriculture under its power, and pulling even the most isolated farms into the circle of the world economy, has raised this national culture to a higher level, has refined it, and by means of its spiri­tual methods of propa­ganda, the Press, the school, and the Church, has beat­en it firmly into the brains of the masses it has proletarianised, both those who were sucked into the cities, and those who were left on the land. This applies not only to the original capit­al­ist countries, but also, though in a somewhat modi­fied form, to America and Australia, where the Euro­peans founded new States, and to the countries of Central Europe, that had until then stagnated: Germany, Austria, Italy, where new capit­al­ist development could link up with old, obsolete, petty-bour­ge­ois econ­omy, agriculture and culture. In the Eastern countries of Europe capi­tal­ism found quite different material and other traditions. Here in Russia, Poland, Hungary, and the region to the east of the Elbe, there was no small, strong bour­ge­ois class dominating spiritual life since time immemorial; primitive agrarian relat­ions with large scale landed property, patri­archal feudalism and village communism determined spiritual life.”

Here, on the ideological problem, Comrade Pannekoek has hit the nail on the head. Far better than it has ever been done from your side, he has demonstrated the diff­er­ence between the east and the west of Europe, from the ideological angle, and has given the cue towards finding revo­lutionary tactics for West­ern Europe.

This only need be combined with the MATERIAL causes of the power of our oppo­nents, that is to say with banking capital, and the tactics become perfectly clear.


Work­ers Win Rights for Possessing Class

However, there is yet more to be said on the ideological quest­ion: civil liberties, the power of parliament, has been won in West­ern Europe by means of wars for liberty, waged by former gener­ations, by the ancestors. And though at the time these rights were only for citizens, for the poss­essing class, they were won by the people all the same. The thought of these struggles is to this day a deeply-rooted tradition in the blood of this people. Revo­lutions are always the deepest mem­ories of a people. Uncon­sc­iously the thought that it meant a victory to achieve repres­ent­ation in parli­ament has a tremendous, silent force. This is especially the case in the oldest bour­ge­ois countries, where long or repeated wars have been waged for freedom: in Eng­land, Holland and France. Also, though on a smaller scale, in Germany, Belgium, and the Scandinavian countries. An inhabi­tant of the East cannot realise, perhaps, how strong this influence can be.

Moreover the work­ers themselves have fought here, often for years, for universal suffrage, and have thus obtained it, directly or indirectly. This was also a victory, which bore fruit at the time. The thought and the feel­ing gener­ally prevails, that it is progress, and a victory, to be represented, and to entrust one’s representative with the care of one’s affairs in Parli­ament. The influence of this ideology is enormous.

And finally, reformism has brought the working class of West­ern Eur­ope altogether under the power of the parli­ament­ary representatives, who have led it into war, and into alliances with capi­tal­ism. The influence of reformism is also colossal.

All these causes have made the worker the slave of Parliament, to which he leaves all action. He himself does not act any longer[2].

Then comes the revo­lution. Now he has to act for himself. Now the worker, alone with his class, must fight the gigantic enemy, must wage the most terrible fight that ever was. No tactics of the leaders can help him. Desperately the class­es, all classes, oppose the work­ers, and not one class sides with them. On the con­trary, if he should trust his leaders, or other classes in parliament, he runs a great risk of falling back into his old weak­ness of letting the leaders act for him, of trust­ing parliament, of perse­ver­ing in the old notion that others can make the revo­lution for him, of pursu­ing illus­ions, of remaining in the old bour­ge­ois ideology.

This relationship of the masses to the leaders has also been excellently characterised by Comrade Pannekoek:

“Parli­a­ment­arism is the typical form of the kind of fight carried out by means of leaders, in which the masses themselves play but a minor part. Its practice consists in this: that repres­entatives, indivi­dual pers­ons, carry on the actual fighting. With the masses it must therefore awaken the illusion that others can do the fighting for them. Formerly the belief was that the leaders could obtain important reforms for the work­ers through parliament; many had even had the illusion that the members of parliament, by means of laws and regu­lations, could carry out the transition to Socialism. Today, since parli­a­ment­arism acts in a more honest way, the argu­ment is heard that the representatives may do great things in parliament for Comm­unist propa­ganda. Ever again the impor­tance of the leaders is emphas­ised, and it is only natural that professionals should decide about politics, be it in the demo­cratic guise of congress discuss­ions and resolutions. The history of Social Demo­cracy is a series of fruitless attempts to let the members deter­mine their own politics. Wherever the prole­tariat goes in for parli­ament­ary action, all this is inevitable, as long as the masses have not yet created organs for self-activity; as long, therefore, as the revo­lution has not broken out. As soon as the masses can act for themselves, and can consequ­ently decide, the disadvantages of parli­a­ment­arism become paramount.

The problem of tactics is how to eradicate the traditional bour­ge­ois way of thinking that saps the strength of the mass of the prole­tariat; every­thing which reinforces the traditional view is wrong. The most firmly root­ed, most tenaci­ous part of this mental attitude is dependence on leaders, to whom it leaves the decisions in all general quest­ions, and the control of all class matters. Inevi­tably, parli­a­ment­arism has a tend­ency to crush in the masses the activity nece­ssary for the revo­lution. No matter what fine speeches are delivered to inspire the work­ers to revo­lutionary deeds, revo­lutionary action does not spring from such words, but from the keen and hard necessity that leaves no other choice whatsoever.

Demands of the Revo­lution

The revo­lution also demands something more than the fighting action of the masses that overthrows the government, and which, as we know, is not under the control of leaders, but can only come from the deeply felt impulse of the masses. The revo­lution demands that the great quest­ions of social construction be taken in hand, that diffi­cult deci­s­ions shall be made, that the entire prole­tariat be roused to one creative inmpulse; and this is only poss­ible if first the advance guard, and then an ever greater mass takes things in hand – a mass that is conscious of its responsibilities, that searches, propa­gates, fights, strives, reflects, considers, dares, and carries out. All this is, however, hard work: so as long as the prole­tariat thinks there is an easier way, letting others act for it by carrying out agitation from a high platform, by taking deci­s­ions, by giving signals for action, by mak­ing laws, it will hesitate, and the old ways of thinking and the old weaknesses will keep them pacified.”

The work­ers of West­ern Europe, led it be repeated a thousand and, if need be, a hun­dred thousand or a million times – and whoever has not learned and seen it since Nov­em­ber 1918 is blind – the West European work­ers must in the first place act for them­selves – in the Trade Unions and also poli­ti­cally, and they must let their leaders act, because the work­ers stand alone, and because no clever tact­ics of leaders can help them. The greatest impetus must come from them. Here, for the first time, to a far greater deg­ree than in Russia, THE LIBERATION OF THE WORK­ERS MUST BE THE WORK OF THE WORK­ERS THEM­SELVES. That is why comrades of the Left Wing are right in saying to the German Com­rades: don’t parti­cipate in the elect­ions, and boycott parliament – poli­ti­cally you must do everything for yourselves – you cannot win unless you do so for two, five, or ten years; unless you train yourself to it man by man, group after group, from town to town, from province to province, and finally in the entire land, as a party, a union; as indust­rial councils, as a mass, and as a class. You cannot win unless finally, through incessant training and fighting, and through defeat, you advance to that stage, the great majority among you, where you can do all this, and where, at last, after all this schooling, you constitute one united mass.

And that is why the comrades of the KAPD were right, perfectly right – history deman­ded it of them – at once to proceed to a secession, to split the Trade Unions; as this covers the entire poli­ti­cal quest­ion, there is an urgent need for the fight, the example, the lead.


An Example Needed

But these comrades of the Left Wing, the KAPD, would have comm­itted a grave mis­take had they done nothing but preach and propa­gate this. Here even more per­haps, than in the case of the party, when the Spartacus League, or rather the Spartacus Zentrals, refused to stand this propa­ganda of theirs. For what the Ger­man slaves, what all work­ers of West­ern Europe needed in the first place, was an example. In this nat­ion of poli­ti­cal slaves, and in this subjected West European world, there had to be a group that gave the example of free fighters without lead­ers, that is to say, without leaders of the old type – without members of parliament.

And once again all this must be, not because it is so beautiful, or good, or heroic, but because the German and West-European prole­tariat stands alone in this terrible fight, without help from any other class, because the cleverness of the leaders is of no avail any longer, because there is but one thing that is needed, the will and firmness of the mass, man for man, woman for woman, and of the mass as a whole.

For this higher motive, and because the opposite tactics, parli­ament­ary action, can but harm this higher cause, infinitely higher than the petty profit of parli­ament­ary propa­ganda, for this higher motive the Left Wing rejects parli­a­ment­arism.

You say that Comrade Liebknecht, if he yet lived, might work won­ders in the Reich­stag. We deny it. Poli­ti­cally he could not manoeuvre there, because all the bour­ge­ois parties oppose us in one united front. And he could win the work­ers no better in parli­ament than outside it. On the other hand, the masses, to a very great extent, would leave everything to be done through his speeches, so that his parli­ament­ary action would have a harmful effect[3].


Big Numbers of no Avail

It is true that this work of the Left Wing would take years, and those people who for some reason or other, strive for immediate results, big num­bers, large amounts of members and votes, big parties, and a powerful (seemingly powerful!) Inter­national, will have a rather long time to wait. Those, how­ever, who realise that the victory of the German and West- European revo­lution can only come, if a very great number, if the mass of the work­ers believe in themselves, will be satisfied with these tactics.

For Germany and West­ern Europe they are the only tactics possible. This is parti­cul­arly true for England.

Comrade, do you know the bour­ge­ois individualism of England, its bour­ge­ois liberty, its parli­ament­ary democracy, as they have grown during some six or seven centuries? Do you really know them? Do you know how utterly they differ from conditions in your country? Do you know how deep­ly these ideas are rooted in everyone, also in the proletarian indivi­duals of England and its colonies? Do you know into what an immense whole it has developed? Do you know how generally spread it is? In social and personal life? I do not think there is one Russ­ian, one inhabitant of East­ern Europe, who knows them. If you knew them, you would rejoice at those among the English work­ers who totally break with this greatest poli­ti­cal formation of world capi­tal­ism.

If this is done with full consciousness, it demands a revo­lutionary mind, quite as great as that which once broke with Czarism. This rupture with the entire English demo­cracy constitutes the era of the English revo­lution.

And this is done, as it must inevitably be done in England, with its trem­en­dous hist­ory, tradition, and strength; it is done with the utmost firm­ness of pur­pose. Because the English prole­tariat has the greatest power (potentially it is the most powerful on the earth), it makes a sudden stand against the mightiest bour­ge­oisie of the earth, and with one stroke rejects the whole of English democracy, although the revo­lution has not yet broken out there.

That is what their vanguard did, just like the German one, the KAPD. And why did they do it? Because they know that they also stand alone, and that no class in all England will help them, and that above all the prole­tariat itself, and not the leaders, must fight and win there[4].


A Great Day

It was an historic day, Comrade, when on this June day in London the first Comm­unist Party was founded, and this Party rejected the entire struct­ure and government apparatus of seven hundred years. I wish Marx and Eng­els could have been present there. I believe they would have felt a great, a supreme joy at seeing how these Eng­lish work­ers rejected the Engl­ish State, the example for all States of the earth, and which for cent­uries has been the centre and stronghold of world capi­tal­ism and rules over one third of hum­anity; how they reject it and its parliament, though only theor­et­ically as yet.

These tactics are all the more necessary in England because English capi­tal­ism supp­orts the capi­tal­ism of all other countries, and will decidedly not scruple to summon auxiliaries from all over the world, against every foreign, as well as against its own prole­tariat. The fight of the English prole­tariat, therefore, is a struggle against world capi­tal­ism. All the more reason for the English Comm­un­ists to give the most elevated and brilliant example. To wage an exemplary fight on behalf of the world prole­tariat, and to strengthen it by example[5].

Thus there has to be everywhere one group that draws all the consequ­ences; such groups are the salt of humanity.

Here, however, after this theor­et­ical defence of anti-parli­a­ment­arism, I have to answer in detail your defence of parli­a­ment­arism. You defend it (from page 36 to 68), for England and Germany. The argu­mentation, how­ever, holds good only for Russia (and at the very utmost for a few other East-European countries), not for West­ern Europe. That, as I have said bef­ore, is where your mistake lies. That turns you from a Marxist into an oppor­tunist leader. That causes you, the Marxist, radical leader for Russia, and probably a few more East-European countries, to sink back into oppor­tunism where West­ern Europe is concerned. And, if accepted here, your tactics would lead the entire West to perdition. This I will next prove in detail, in answer to your argu­mentation.

Comrade, on reading your argumentation from page 36 to 68, a recoll­ection constantly occurred to me.


Amongst the Social Patriots

I saw myself once more at a congress of the old Social-Patriotic Party of Holland, listening to a speech of Troelstra’s – a speech in which he depict­ed to the work­ers the great advantages of the reformist policy, in which he spoke of the work­ers that were not social-demo­cratic yet, and that were to be won by compromise; in which he spoke of the alliances that were to be made (only provisionally, of course!) with the parties of these work­ers, and of the “rifts” in and between the bour­ge­ois parties, of which we were to make use. In just the same way, in almost, nay in absol­utely the same words, you, Comrade Lenin, speak for us West Europeans!

And I remember how we sat there, far back in the hall; we the Marxist Com­rades, very few in number – only four or five. Henriette Roland Holst, Panne­koek, and a few others. Troelstra spoke persuasively and convinc­ingly, just as you do, Comrade. And I remember how, in the midst of the thund­ering applause, of the brilliant reformist expositions and the reviling of Marx­ism, the work­ers in the hall looked round at the “idiots” and “asses” and “childish fools”, names that Troelstra called us at that time – almost the same as you call us now. To all prob­ability things have been practically the same at the Congress of the Inter­national in Moscow, when you spoke against the “Left” Marxists. And his words – just like yours, Comrade – were so convincing, so logical, within the compass of his method, that at times I myself thought, yes, he is right.

Usually I was the one to speak for the oppos­ition (in the years up to 1909, when we were expelled). Shall I tell you what I did, when I began to doubt about myself? I had a means that never failed: it was a sentence from the Party Programme:

“You shall ever act or speak in such a way that the class consci­ous­ness of the work­ers shall be roused and strengthened.”

And I asked myself: is the class consciousness of the work­ers roused or not by what the man over there is saying? And then I always knew that at once this was not the case, and that therefore I was right.

It was just the same reading your brochure. I hear your oppor­tunist argu­ments for cooperation with non-Comm­unist parties, with bour­ge­ois elem­ents, for compromise. And I am carried away. It all seems so brilliant, clear and fine. And so logical as well. But then I consider, as I used to long ago, just one phrase which some time ago I made for myself, for the camp­aign against the Comm­unist oppor­tunists. It is as follows:


Is what yonder Comrade says the sort of thing that strengthens the will of the masses for action, for the revo­lution, for the real revo­lution in West­ern Europe – yes or no?

And with regard to your brochure, my head and heart answer at the same time: no. Then I know at once, as surely as one can possibly know any­thing, that you are wrong.

I can recommend this method to the comrades of the Left Wing. When­ever you want to know, Comrades, in the severe struggles ahead of us, against the oppor­tunists of all countries (here in Holland they have been waging for the last three years) whether and why you are right, ask yourself this quest­ion!


Lenin’s Three Argu­ments

In your oppos­ition to us, Comrade, you use only three argu­ments, that constantly recur all through your brochure, either separately or combined.

They are the following:

1. The advantages of parli­ament­ary propa­ganda for winning the work­ers and the petit bour­ge­ois elements to our side.

2. The advantages of parli­ament­ary action for making use of the “rifts” between the parties, and for compromises with some of them.

3. The example of Russia, where this propa­ganda and the compromise worked so wonderfully well.

Further argu­ments you have none. I will answer them in turn.

To begin with the first argu­ment, propa­ganda in parliament. This argu­ment is only of very slight importance. For the non-Comm­unist work­ers, that is to say the social-demo­crats, the Christian and other bour­ge­ois elements do not, as a rule, read one word in their papers about our parli­ament­ary speeches.

Often these speeches are utterly mutilated. With those, therefore, we ach­ieve nothing. We only get at the work­ers through our meetings, broch­ures and newspapers.


Action Speaks Louder than Words

We, however (I often speak in the name of the KAPD), get at them espec­ially through action (in the time of the revo­lution, of which we speak). In all bigger towns and vill­ages they see us act. They see our strikes, our street fights, our councils. They hear our watchwords. They see our lead. This is the best propa­ganda, the most convincing. This action, however, is not in parliament!

The non-Comm­unist work­ers, therefore, the small peasants and bour­ge­ois, can be reached quite well also without parli­ament­ary action.

Here one part in particular from your brochure, Infantile Disorder, must be refuted; it shows where oppor­tunism is already leading you, Comrade.

On page 52 you say that the fact of the German work­ers coming in masses to join the ranks of the Independent Party, and not the Comm­unist Party, is attribut­able to the parli­ament­ary action of the Independents. The mass of the Berlin workers, therefore, had been as good as converted through the death of our Com­rades Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, through the pur­p­ose­ful strikes and the street fights of the Comm­unists. Only a speech of Comrade Levi in parliament was lacking as yet! Had he but delivered this speech, they would have come to us, instead of to the double-minded Inde­pendents! No, comrade, this is not true. They have gone to the double-minds first because they were afraid as yet of the single-minded: the revo­lution. Because the transition from slavery to free­dom lies through hesi­tation.

Look out, Comrade, you see whither oppor­tunism is already leading you.

Your first argu­ment is of no importance.

And if we consider that parli­ament­ary action (in the revo­lution, in Ger­many and Eng­land, and all West­ern Europe) reinforces the work­ers’ idea that their leaders will do things for them, and dissuades them from the idea that they must do everything for themselves, we see that this argu­ment does not only bring no good at all, but that it is exceedingly harmful.

The second argu­ment: the advantage of parli­ament­ary action (in revo­luti­onary peri­ods) for taking advantage of the rifts between the parties, and for compromises with some of them.


An Uncongenial Task

To refute this argu­ment (especially for England and Germany, but also for all West­ern Europe), I shall have to go somewhat more into detail than with the first. It is most uncongenial to me, Comrade, that I should have to do this against you. This entire quest­ion of revo­lutionary oppor­tunism, for it is no longer reformist, but revo­lutionary oppor­tunism, is a vital quest­ion, literally a matter of life and death for us West-Euro­pe­ans. The matter itself, the refutation, is easy. We have refuted this argu­ment a hundred times, when Troelstra, Henderson, Bernstein, Legien, Renandel, van der Velde, etc., all the Social-Patriots, used it. Why Kaut­sky, when he was still Kautsky, has refuted it. It was the greatest argu­ment of the reformists. We did not think we would ever have to do it against you. Now we have to.

Well then: The advantage of profiting in parliament from the “rifts” is utterly insignif­icant, for the very reason that for several years, for a score of years, these “rifts” have been insignificant. Those between the big bour­ge­ois and the petty-bour­ge­ois parties. In West­ern Europe, in Germany and England. This does not date from the revo­lution. It was so long before, in the period of peaceful evolu­t­ion. All parties, including the petty-bour­ge­oisie and the small peasants, had been AGAINST the work­ers for a long time already, and between themselves the diff­er­ence in matters concerning the work­ers (and consequently on nearly all points), had become very slight, or had often quite disappeared. This is an established fact, theor­et­ically as well as practically, in West­ern Europe, in Germany and England.

Theor­et­ically, because capital concentrates in banks, trusts, and mono­polies to an enormous degree.

In West­ern Europe, and especially in England and Germany, these banks, trusts and cartels have assimilated nearly all capital in the indust­ries, comm­erce, transport, and to a great extent even in agriculture. The whole of industry, inclu­d­ing small scale industry, the whole of transport, inclu­ding the small enterprises, the whole of comm­erce, big as well as small, and the greater part of agriculture, big and small, has conse­quently become absolutely dependent on big capital. They have fused with it.

Comrade Lenin says that small comm­erce, transport, industry and agri­cult­ure, waver between capital and work­ers. This is wrong. It was so in Russia, and it used to be so here. In West­ern Europe, in Germany and Eng­land, they are now so largely, so utterly dependent on big capital, that they no longer waver. The small shop owner, the small indust­rialist, the small trader, are absolutely in the power of the trusts, the mono­polies, the banks. It is from these that they get their goods and credit. And even the small peas­ant, through his cooperative and his mort­gages, is dependent on the trust, the mono­poly, and the banks.

Comrade, this part of my argu­mentation, the argu­mentation of the “Left Wing”, is the most important of all. The entire tactics for Europe and Amer­ica depend on it.

What elements do they consist of, Comrade, these lower layers that stand nearest to the prole­tariat? Of shop owners, artisans, lower officials and employ­ees, and poor peasants.

Let us consider what these are in West­ern Europe! Follow me, Com­rade. Not only in a big shop – there the dependence on capital is a matter of course – but in a small one in a poor, proletarian quarter. Look around you. What do you see? Everything: nearly all the goods, clothes, foodstuffs, imp­le­ments, fuel etc., are products not only of big industry, but often of the trusts. And not only in the cities, but in the country likewise. The small shopkeepers are for the most part storekeepers of big capital. That is to say of banking capital, for this rules the large factories and the trusts.

Look about you in the workshop of a small artisan, no matter whether in the city or the country. His raw materials, the metals, the leather, the wood, etc., come to him from big capital, often even from the mono­polies, that is to say from the banks as well. And in so far as the purveyors are small capit­al­ists as yet, these in their turn depend on banking capital.

And the lower officials and employees? The great majority of them in West­ern Europe is in the employment of big capital, the State, of the muni­cipality, finally therefore also of the banks. The percentage of emp­loy­ees and officials nearest to the prole­tariat that are directly or indirectly depend­ent on big capital is very great in West­ern Europe. In Germany and Engl­and, as well as in the United States and the British colonies, it is enormous. And the interests of these layers are one therefore with those of big capital, that is to say the banks.

I have already dealt with the poor peasants, and we have seen, that for the time being they cannot be won for Communism, for the reasons already mentioned, and also because they are dependent on big capital for their implements, goods, and mortgages.

What does this prove, Comrade?

That modern West-European (and American) society and State have bec­ome ONE big, thoroughly organ­ised whole, which is entirely controll­ed, moved and regulated by banking capital. That society here is a regul­ated body, capit­al­istically regulated, but regulated all the same. That bank­ing capital is the blood, flowing through the entire body, and nourishing all its branches. That this body is one, and that capital renders this body enorm­­ously strong, and that therefore all the members will stand by it to the very end – all except the prole­tariat, which makes this blood: surplus value.

Through this dependence of all classes on banking capital and through the enormous strength of banking capital, all the classes are hostile to the revo­lution, so that the prole­tariat stands alone.

And as banking capital is the most pliable and elastic force in the world, and increases its power a thousand times through its credit, it upholds and maintains capi­tal­ism and the capit­al­ist State, even after this terrible war, after the loss of thou­sands of billions, and in the midst of conditions that seem like bankruptcy to us.

And it is through this that, with all the more force, it collects all classes around it, combining them into one whole, against the prole­tariat. And the force and pliability, and the unison of all classes are so great, that they will last long after the revo­lution has broken out.


Cause of Revo­lution’s Delay

It is true that capital has been terribly weakened. The crisis is coming, and with it the revo­lution. And I believe that the revo­lution will win. But there are two things that still keep capi­tal­ism very strong: the spiritual slavery of the masses, and banking capital.

Our tactics, therefore, have to be based on the power of these two things.

And there is one other cause through which organ­ised banking capital rall­ies all the classes against the revo­lution. It is the great number of prol­etarians. All the classes feel that if only they could induce the work­ers (in Germany alone almost twenty million) to work 10, 12, or 14 hours a day, then there would be a way out of the crisis. That is why they hold together.

These are the econ­omic conditions in West­ern Europe.

In Russia banking capital did not have this power yet, so there the bour­ge­oisie and the lower classes did not unite. Consequently, there were real rifts between them. And there the prole­tariat did not stand alone.

These econ­omic causes determine politics. It is through this that those class­es in West­ern Europe (dependent slaves that they are) vote for their mast­ers, for these big capit­al­ist parties, and that they belong to them. In Ger­many and Eng­land, in West­ern Europe, these elements have hardly any parties of their own.

All this was very strong already before the revo­lution and before the war. Now through the war it has become intensified to an enormous extent – through nation­alism and chauvinism, but especially through the massive trustification of all econ­omic forces. Through the revo­lution, however, this tendency – unity of all bour­ge­ois parties with all petty- bour­ge­ois elements and all poor peasants – has again been immensely strengthened.

The Russian Revo­lution has not been in vain! Now we know everywhere what to expect.

Thus in West­ern Europe, and especially in England and Germany, the big bour­ge­oisie and the big peasants, the middle classes and middle peas­ants, the low­er bour­ge­oisie and the small peasants, are all united against the work­ers, through mono­poly, the banks, the trusts; through imperialism, the war and revo­lution[6]. And, as the labour quest­ion encompasses all things, they are united on all quest­ions.

Here, Comrade, I must make the same remark I have already made (in the first chap­ter) with regard to the peasant quest­ion. I know quite well that the little minds in our Party, that lack the strength to base tactics on great, gen­eral lines, and conse­quent­ly base them on the small, particular ones, that these little minds will call the attention to those elements among these layers, that have not yet come under the banner of big capital.

I do not deny that there are such elements, but I maintain that the gen­eral truth, the general tendency in West­ern Europe, is that they are under the banner of big capital. And it is on this general truth that our tactics must be based!

Neither do I deny that there may be “rifts” yet. I only say that the gen­eral tendency is, and will be, for a long time after the revo­lution: unity of these class­es. And I say that for the work­ers in West­ern Europe it is better to have their attent­ion directed to that unity than to these rifts. For it is they them­selves that must in the first place make the revo­lution, and not their leaders, their Members of Parliament.

Nor do I say that (which the little minds will make of my words) that the real interests of these classes are the same as those of big capital. I know that these classes are oppr­essed by it.

What I say is simply this:

These classes cling to big capital even more firmly than before, because now they also see the danger of the proletarian revo­lution ahead.

In West­ern Europe the domination of capital means to them a more or less sure exi­stence, the possibility of, or at least the belief in, a betterment of their position. Now they are threatened by chaos and the revo­lution, which for some time to come means worse chaos. That is why they side with cap­it­al in the effort to sweep chaos away by every possible means, to save prod­uction, to drive the work­ers to work longer hours, and to endure priv­ation patiently. For them the prol­e­tarian revo­lution in West­ern Eur­ope is the fall and breakdown of all order, of all security of existence, be it ever so insufficient. Therefore they all support big capital, and will continue to do so for a long time, including during the revo­lution.


All Classes Fight the Prole­tariat

For finally I must yet point out that what I have said applies to the tactics at the beginning and in the course of the revo­lution. I know that quite at the end of the revo­lution, when victory draws near and capi­tal­ism has been shattered, these classes will come to us. But we must determine our tactics not for the end, but for the beginning and in the course of the revo­lution.

Theor­et­ically, therefore, all this had to be so. Theor­et­ically these classes had to co­oper­ate. Theor­et­ically this is an established fact. But practically as well.

This I will prove next:

For many years already the entire bour­ge­oisie, all bour­ge­ois parties in West­ern Eur­ope, also those that belong to the small peasants and middle bour­ge­oisie, have done nothing for the work­ers. And they were all of them hostile to the lab­our move­ment, and in favour of imperialism, in favour of the war.

For years already there had not been a single party in England, in Ger­many, in West­ern Europe, that supported the work­ers. All were opposed to them; in all matters[7].

There was no new labour legislation. Conditions grew worse instead. Laws were passed against going on strike. Even higher taxes were levied.

Imperialism, colonisation, marinism and militarism were supported by all bour­ge­ois, including the petty-bour­ge­ois parties. The diff­er­ence between liberal and clerical, conservative and progressive, big and petty bour­ge­ois, disappeared.

Everything which the social-patriots, the reformists said, about the diff­er­ence between the parties, about the “rifts” between them, was a fraud. And all this has now been brought forward by you, Comrade Lenin! It was a fraud for all countr­ies in West­ern Europe. This has been best proved in July-August 1914.

At that time they were all one. And the revo­lution has made them even far more uni­ted in practice. Against the revo­lution, and consequently against all work­ers, for the revo­lution alone can bring actual betterment to all wor­k­ers, against the revo­lution they all stand together without a single “rift”.

And as through the war, the crisis and the revo­lution, all social and poli­ti­cal quest­ions have come to be connected in practice with the quest­ion of the revo­lution, these classes in West­ern Europe stand together in all quest­ions, and in oppos­ition to the prole­tariat.

In a word, the trust, the mono­poly, the big banks, imperialism, the war, the revo­lution, have in practice riveted together into one class all the West-European big and petty bour­ge­ois and peasant parties against the work­ers[8].

Theor­et­ically and practically, therefore, this is an established fact. In the revo­lution in West­ern Europe and especially in England and Germany, there are no “rifts” of any considerable importance between these classes.

Here again I must add something personal. On pages 40 and 41 you criti­cise the Amsterdam Bureau. You cite a thesis of the bureau. Parenthet­ically, what you say with regard to this is wrong – all of it. But you also say that the Amsterdam Comm­ission, before condemning parli­a­ment­arism, ought to have given an analy­sis of the class relations and the poli­ti­cal part­ies, to justify this condem­nation. Excuse me, Com­rade, this was not the task of the Commission. For that on which their thesis is based, to wit that all bour­ge­ois parties in Parli­ament as well as more outside, had been all along, and were even now, opposed to the work­ers, and did not show the slightest “rift”, all this had been ascertained long ago, and was an estab­lished fact for all Marxists. In West­ern Europe at any rate, there was no need for us to analyse that.

On the contrary, considering you strive for compromise and alliances in Parliament, which would lead us into oppor­tunism, it was your duty to demon­strate that there are any rifts of importance between the bour­ge­ois parties.

You wish to lead us, here in West­ern Europe, into compromising. What Troel­stra, Henderson, Scheidemann, Turati, etc., could not accomplish in the time of evolution, you wish to do during the revo­lution. It is for you to prove that this can be done.


Opposing Capit­al­ist Forces unite to defeat Revo­lution

And this not by means of Russian examples; these are easy enough, to be sure, but with West-European examples. This duty you have fulfilled in the most mis­er­able way. No wonder you took almost exclusively your Russian experience, that of a very backward country, not that of the West­ern Europe of these modern days.

In the entire booklet, in the parts which deal with these very quest­ions of tactics, the Russian examples excepted, to which I will soon proceed, I find but two examples from West­ern Europe, the Kapp putsch in Germany, and the Lloyd George- Churchill government in England, with the oppos­ition of Asquith.

Very few examples indeed, and of the poorest quality, that there are “rifts” between the bour­ge­ois, and in this case also the social demo­cratic parties!

If ever a proof was needed that between the bour­ge­ois (and in this case also the social demo­cratic parties), there are no important rifts as regards the work­ers, in the revo­lution, and here in West­ern Europe; the Kapp putsch furnishes that proof. The Kapp­ites did not punish, kill and imprison the demo­crats, the Zentrum people, and the social demo­crats! And when these came into power again, they did not punish, kill and imprison the Kappites. But both parties killed the Comm­unists!

Communism was too weak as yet. That is why they did not TOGE­THER forge a dictatorship. Next time, when Communism will be stronger, they will organ­ise a dictatorship BETWEEN THEM.

It was and is your duty, Comrade, to point out in what way the Comm­unists could at that time have taken advantage in Parliament of that rift – in such a way, of course, as to benefit the work­ers. It was and is your duty to tell us what the Comm­unist Mem­bers of Parliament ought to have said to make the work­ers see this rift, and take advan­t­age of it – in such a way, of course, as not to strengthen the bour­ge­ois parties. You cannot do this, because during the revo­lution there is no rift of any importance. And it is of the time of the revo­lution that we speak. And it was your duty to point out that if in special cases there should be such rifts, it would be more advantageous to direct the attention of the work­ers in that direction than to the general tendency towards unity.

And it was and is your duty, Comrade, before beginning to lead us in West­ern Europe, to show where those rifts are, in England, in Germany, in West­ern Europe.

This you cannot do either. You speak of a rift between Churchill, Lloyd George, and Asquith, of which the work­ers are to take advantage. This is alto­g­ether pitiful. I will not even discuss this with you. For everyone knows that since in England the indust­rial prole­tariat has some power, these rifts have been artifi­cially made by the bour­ge­ois parties and leaders and are yet being made, to mis­lead the work­ers, to entice them from the one side to the other, and back again ad infinitum, thus to keep them for ever powerless and dependent. To this end they even at times admit two opponents to the one government. Lloyd George and Churchill. And Com­rade Lenin lets himself be caught in this trap, that is well nigh a century old! He strives to induce the British work­ers to base their politics on this fraud! At the time of the revo­lution, the Chur­chills, Lloyd George, and the Asquiths will unite against the revo­lution, and then you, Comrade, will have betrayed and weakened the English prole­tariat with an illusion. It was your duty to point out not by means of general, fine and brilliant fig­ures of speech (as in the entire last chapter, on page 72 for instance), but accur­ately, concret­ely, by means of clear examples and facts, what those confl­icts and diff­er­ences are – not the Russian ones, nor those that are of no importance, or artifi­cially made – but by means of the actual, important, West-European examples. This you do nowhere in your brochure. And as long as you do not give these, we do not believe you. When you give them we will answer you – until then we say: it is nothing but illusions that mislead the work­ers, and lead them into false tactics. The truth is, Com­rade, that you wrongly assume the West-European and the Russian revo­lu­tions to be alike. And for what reason? Because you forget that in the modern, that is to say the West-European and North American States, there is a power that stands above the various kinds of capit­al­ists – the landowners, indust­rial mag­nates, and merchants: banking capital. This power, which is identical with imperi­alism, unites all capit­al­ists, including the small peasants and bour­ge­ois.

One thing, however, remains to you. You say there are rifts between Labour parties and the bour­ge­ois parties, and that these can be made use of. That is right.

We might aver, to be sure, that these diff­er­ences between the social demo­crats and bour­ge­ois in the war and in the revo­lution have been very slight and have disappeared in most cases! But they might be there. And they may arise yet. Of those we must therefore speak. Especially as you put forward the “pure” Engl­ish Labour govern­ment, Thomas, Henderson, Clynes, etc., in England, against Sylvia Pankhurst, and the possibly “pure” socialist government of Ebert, Scheide­mann, Noske, Hilferding, Crispien, Cohn, against the KAPD[9].

You say that your tactics, which direct the work­ers’ attention towards these Labour governments, encouraged them to promote their formation, are clear and effective; whilst ours, which are opposed to their formation, are harmful.

No, Comrade, our attitude with regard to these cases of “pure” Labour govern­ment where the rift between these parties of work­ers and those of the bour­ge­oisie became a split, is again quite clear, and profitable, to the revo­lution.

It is possible that we shall allow such a government to exist. It can be nec­ess­ary, it can mean progress for the move­ment. If this is so, we cannot proc­eed any further yet, we will let them exist, criticising them as keenly as possible, and replace them by a Comm­unist government as soon as we can. But to promote its arrival in Parliament and in elections, this will not do in West­ern Europe.

And we will not do this, because in West­ern Europe and in the revo­lution the work­ers stand all alone. For that reason everything – do you under­stand this? – everything HERE depends on their will for action, on their clearness of brain. And because these, your tactics of compromising with the Scheidemanns and Hendersons, with the Crispiens and their foll­owers among the English Independ­ents, of the oppor­tunist Comm­unists of the Spartacus League or the BSP – because these tactics inside and outside Parl­iament confuse heads, here in West­ern Europe and in the revo­lution – making the work­ers elect someone whom they know beforehand to be an impostor, and because our tactics on the other hand make them clear-sighted, by showing them the enemy as enemy, because of all this and, even at the risk of losing a representative in Parliament in periods of illeg­ality, or of missing the benefit of a “rift” (in Parli­ament!), we in West­ern Europe, and under the present conditions, choose our tactics and reject yours.

Here again your advice leads to confusion, and awakens illusions.

But what about the members of the social demo­cratic parties, the German Indepen­dents, the Labour Party, and the Independent Party? Must not those be won?

These, the working class and petty-bour­ge­ois elements among them, will be won by us, the Left Wing, in West­ern Europe, through our propa­ganda, our meet­ings and our press, and especially through our example, our slog­ans, our action on the shop floor. In the revo­lution, those who are not won thus, through our acti­on, through the revo­lution, are lost anyway, and can go to the devil. These social-demo­cratic, Inde­pen­dent Labour Parties in England and Germany consist of work­ers and petty-bour­ge­ois ele­ments. The first, the work­ers, can all be won in the long run. The petty-bour­ge­ois elem­ents only to a very slight extent, and are of little econ­omic import­ance; these few will be won over by our propa­ganda, etc.. The majority of them – and it is on these that Noske and his conjurers rely above all – bel­ong to capi­tal­ism, and, in proportion to the revo­lution’s advance, they rally all the closer around it.


Workshop, not Parliament, the Battle-ground

But does the fact that we do not support them at the elections imply that we are cut off from the Labour Parties, the Independents, the social demo­crats, the Labour Party, etc.? On the contrary, we seek alliance with them as much as we can. On every occa­sion we summon them for comm­on action: for the strike, the boycott, for revolt, street fights, and especially for the work­ers’ councils, the indust­rial councils. We seek them every­where. Only not in parliament, as we used to do. This, in West­ern Europe, bel­ongs to a past epoch. But in the workshop, in the union and in the street – that is where we find them. That is where we win them. This is the new practice, succeeding social demo­cratic practice. It is the Comm­unist practice.

You, Comrade, wish to bring the social demo­crats, the Independents, etc., into Parlia­ment in order to show that they are deceivers. You wish to use Parlia­ment to show that it is of no use.

You seek to slyly deceive the work­ers. You put the rope round their neck and let them hang. We help them to avoid the rope. We do this because here we are able to do so. You follow the tactics of the peasant races; we those of the indust­rial races. This is no scorn, and no mockery. I believe that with you it was the right way. Only you should not – either in this small matter, or in the great quest­ion of parli­a­ment­arism – force on us what was good in Russia but leads to destruction here.

Finally I have only one remark to make: you say, and you have often upheld it, that in West­ern Europe the revo­lution can only begin AFTER these lower classes adjacent to the prole­tariat have been sufficiently shak­en, neutralised or won over. As I have demon­­strated that they cannot be shaken, neutralised or won at the beginning of the revo­lution, this latter, if your statement was correct, would be impossible. This has been told to me over and over again, from your side, and also by Comrade Zinoviev. Fort­un­ately, however, here also your observation in the most important of quest­­ions which determine the revo­lution, is false. And it again proves that you see all things exclusively from the East-European point of view. I will make this clear in the last chapter.

I herewith believe to have proved that your second argu­ment for parli­a­ment­arism is for the most part an oppor­tunistic fraud, and that in this resp­ect parli­a­ment­arism must now be replaced by another method of fight­ing, one that lacks its drawbacks and poss­esses greater advantages. I recog­nise that in this one point your tactics can have some advantages. The Labour Govern­ment can produce some good, greater clarity. And in illegal times your tact­ics can be profitable. We recognise that. But just as once we needed to say to the revo­lutionists and reform­ists: we prize the develop­ment of self-consci­ousness in the work­ers above every­thing, even above small advant­ages. We now say to you, Lenin and your “Right” comrades: we prize above all the ripening of the masses towards will and deed. Here­to all things have to be made subservient in West­ern Europe. We will see who is right, the “Left” or Lenin. I do not doubt one moment. We will defeat you, as we did Troelstra, Henderson, Renandel and Legien.

This here is the place to discuss the mutual relationship between party, class and mass in West­ern Europe.

This matter is also of the greatest importance: as important as the power of banking capital, and the UNITY of all great and small bour­ge­ois classes it engen­ders. The rel­ation between party, class and mass in West­ern Europe differs widely from that of Russia, and like the unity of the bour­ge­ois classes it is due to the power of banking capital.

Our tactics must be directed toward and based on a true understanding of that relation­ship. Whoever does not understand this relationship, cannot understand the tactics for West­ern Europe.

Let us again take Germany as an example. Not only because, with Engl­and, it is indust­rially the most highly developed country, but also because it offers the most developed statistics.

As we have often observed already, it has a prole­tariat of about twenty million actual work­ers: about fourteen million indust­rial and some six mill­ion agricultural. What does this mean? That, counting children, non-work­ers and the aged, this prole­tariat comprises at least half – and prob­ably more – of the total population of Germany.

We have seen, however, that in the revo­lution the prole­tariat stands alone, and that the opponents of the prole­tariat, of the revo­lution, by virtue of their arms and their organ­isation, even to this day are so powerful that they can only be conquered by means of the unity of the entire prole­tariat. And because of banking capital their power is such that unity alone does not suff­ice: that a conscious, determined unity, a truly Comm­unist unity is needed.

Two facts therefore are certain: the prole­tariat is very numerous, it com­p­r­ises more than half the population; and the oppos­ition, in spite of this, is so powerful that the unity of the prole­tariat, real Comm­unist unity is necess­ary.

Only thus can Capi­tal­ism be overthrown, and can the revo­lution conquer.

What follows from these two facts?

Firstly, that the dictatorship of a Party, of a Comm­unist Party, cannot exist here in Ger­many, as it did in Russia, where a few thousand dominated the prole­tariat. Here, in order to conquer capital, the dictatorship must be exer­cised by the class itself, the entire class[10].

It is not, we insistently repeat, for any radical romantic, aesthetic, heroic or intell­ectual reason, but for the most simple and concrete fact, one more­over that is only too much felt by the German prole­tariat: that highly organ­ised German mono­poly banking capital is so powerful, and unites the entire bour­ge­oisie.

The same cause that unites the entire bour­ge­oisie makes it necessary that the entire class should exercise its dictatorship.


A United Prole­tariat Necessary

From the above mentioned causes there follows, secondly: that at the beginning and during the course of the revo­lution the masses are divided into two hostile camps. By masses we mean the prole­tariat and the other working classes combined.

These latter (petty-bour­ge­ois, peasants, intellectuals, etc.) in the beginning and during the course of the revo­lution are hostile to the greater part of the prole­tariat. Between the prole­tariat on the one side and the rest of the masses on the other, there is an anti­thesis. Class and mass in West­ern Eur­ope are not one, nor can they become so at the start, and in the first stages of the revo­lution.

Finally from the numerical relations of the prole­tariat towards the other class­es, and from the fact that the prole­tariat must be united in order to win, there follows, as I have shown above, that the relative importance of the class, as oppo­sed to the power of leaders, must be very great; that the power of the leaders, with regard to that of the class, must be small, and likewise that in all likelihood in Germany power cannot come into the hands of some few leaders.

If we consider the character of German industry, its concentration in great numbers of centres, this goes without saying. How great, how num­erous the leader­ship will be, cannot as yet be ascertained – it can only be stated that it will be extended over a great number of persons.

And thus, after Germany, it is in the first place in England – and, though to a lesser degree, all over West­ern Europe.

And this fact that the entire class must exercise its dictatorship, how does it affect the Comm­unist Party?

From this fact follows that the task of the Comm­unist Party in West­ern Eur­ope con­sists almost exclusively of preparing the class and making it consc­i­ous for the revo­lution and the dictatorship.

In all its actions and all its tactics the Party must always bear in mind that the revo­lution must be made, and the dictatorship exercised not by the Party alone, but by the class.

The task can only be fulfilled if the Comm­unist Party consists of poli­ti­c­ally truly consc­ious and convinced revo­lutionaries, who are ready for any deed, any sacrifice, and if all the half- baked and wavering elements are kept off by means of its progr­amme, by action, and especially by the very tactics.

For only thus, only by preserving this purity, the Party will be able to make the class truly revo­lutionary and Comm­unist, through its propa­ganda, its slogans, and by taking the lead in all actions. The Party can take the lead only by being always absolutely pure itself.

How large the Comm­unist Party will become through this action cannot be predeter­mined. We desire, of course, that it may be as big as possible. But the entire tactics and the entire struggle must be dominated by this princ­iple: better a thousand mem­bers that are good, than a hundred thousand that are bad. For these latter cannot accomplish the revo­lution and the dictatorship of the prole­tariat.

It all depends on the purity and the firmness of the Comm­unist Party, how far its power will reach, and how much it will influence the masses. Also, the quality of the leaders depends to some degree on its tactics.

In other words, Comrade Lenin, we must never follow the tactics you foll­owed in 1902 and 1903, when you formed the Party that has made the revo­lution.


Menshevist Tactics would ruin Prole­tariat

All the social demo­crats of Russia at that time were of the opinion that a proletar­ian organ­isation ought to be created, and they agreed that this organ­isation was to be obtain­ed by means of a blind imitation of German social democracy; all this has fin­ally crystallised into the Menshevist Party. The later Menshevists dreamed of build­ing a big Labour Party, in which the masses would be able to find the road to their action. Such a party would have to accept all those who adopted its programme, it would have to be demo­cratically conducted, and would find its revo­lu­tionary way by means of free criticism, and free discussion. It was against this alluring image, Comrade Lenin, that you directed all the blows of your criti­cism, and not only because such a party was impossible under Czarism, and an illusion, but mainly because “behind this illusion there lurked the immense danger of oppor­tunism”.

The tactics of the Menshevists would mean that the most wavering and hesi­tat­ing elements would obtain a decisive influence on the party of the prole­tariat. This you wished to prevent, and that is why you took care that the progr­amme (in the well known first article), and the tactics also, should always be such that this was impossible[11].

As you did then, we of the Left Wing wish to do now in the Third Inter­nat­ional. Through our very programme and tactics we wish to chase away all vacill­ating and oppor­tunist elements; we only wish to accept the truly Comm­un­ist, truly revo­lutionary ones, we wish to carry out truly Comm­unist action. And all this exclusively with a view to inspiring the entire class with Comm­unist spirit, and of preparing it for the revo­lution and the dictatorship.

This latter, the preparation, is of course a process – a process of inter­act­ion. Every action, every partial revo­lution advances the class, brings it nearer to the party, and the stronger class means greater strength for each new struggle, and also for the party. Thus party and class come into ever closer contact, and finally they grow into one whole.

This, therefore, is our purpose: the Party, small or large, does everything in its power to further the ripening of the class for revo­lution and dictator­ship, as this class stands alone in the revo­lution, without the help of the peasants.

However, there is yet another means to obtain this. Besides the poli­ti­cal party we have as our weapon the Arbeiter-Union, based on the indust­rial organ­isation. What the party is for poli­ti­cal action, the Union is for econ­omic action.

And just as the numerical and class relations for Germany and West­ern Eur­ope, which I have quoted, clearly demonstrate that the party cannot exer­cise the dictatorship, so these figures, these class relations, this unity of all bour­ge­ois classes against the revo­lution, this inevitable unity of the prole­tariat against them, and this necessity of the entire class exercising the dictatorship, and becoming for the most part Comm­unist, demonstrate the iron necessity that no Trade Union, nor Arbeiter-Union or Indust­rial League, nor IWU or Shop Stewards’ Move­ment can ever presume to exer­cise the dictator­ship.

They, both of them, party as well as Arbeiter-Union, each in its own sphere, and with every poss­ible mutual support, must do all they can to prepare the class. For the time being, Party and Union are separate as yet. For, like all Trade Uni­ons, the Union also has to fight for small improve­ments, and is therefore const­antly exposed to oppor­tunist and reformist influences. Only a truly Comm­unist party can subordinate every­thing to the revo­lution.

From the necessity of this development in West­ern Europe (which has sprung up through the power of banking capital), it is also clearly evident that those who already now in the beginning and course of the revo­lution wish to place the Arbeiter-Union, the Indust­rial Union, the indust­rial organ­isation, above the Party, or who even wish to abolish the latter, are wrong.

Gradually, as the Party grows stronger, as the Union grows, as the class becomes more and more Comm­unist, as the revo­lution approaches its goal, class, party and Arbeiter-Union or Indust­rial Union closely approach one another. In the end the Party, the Union and the class are all equiv­alent, and are blended into one whole.

Finally, of course, the power and the unity of all bour­ge­ois classes, and the necessary unity of the entire prole­tariat, make strong centralisation and strict discipline, in the Party as well as in the Union, absolutely necessary.

It is the task of the German and English, the West-European and Amer­ican prole­tariat to combine centralisation and discipline with the strict­est control of, with power over, the leadership.

For only thus can the West-European and American prole­tariat conquer, through the blending of centralisation in the leadership, and the control of the membership.

It need hardly be explained here that also after the revo­lution the dictat­or­ship of the entire class, and the Comm­unist spirit of the whole prole­tariat in West­ern Europe and America are absolutely necessary. For here the count­er revo­lution is so powerful, that if these two conditions were not fulfilled – if, for instance, a new class of rulers sprung up, out of the intell­ectuals and the bureau­cracy – the revo­lution would soon perish. Now already the tactics must be on the lookout to prevent this.

How different from Russia all this is!

How different from Russia where, as a result of the econ­omic condit­ions, as a result of class rela­tions – and rightly, therefore – a handful of people rule the Party, where an infinitesimally small party rules the class, and a minutely small class the entire nation; where no Arbeiter-Union is needed, where the class, and the great majority of the remaining working masses, the small peasants, were one with the revo­lution!

Whoever fails to understand from the productive and class relations of West­ern Europe what the relations between the leaders, the party, the class and the masses are, does not understand a thing of the revo­lution in West­ern Europe, nor of its necessary stipulations. Whoever wishes to conduct the West- European revo­lution according to the tactics and by the road of the Russian revo­lution, is not qualified to lead it.


The Left Wing Tactics

From these West-European, and to some extent also from the Amer­ican and Anglo-Colonial relations, it is therefore perfectly obvious that there is only one kind of tactics that in West­ern Europe (and North Amer­ica) can lead to victory, and these are the tactics of the Left Wing, in the name of which I speak. For these claim that the leaders shall have relat­ively little power in relation to the class, and the class shall have relat­ively far greater power. They say that for the time being the class and the rest of the masses cannot be one. They claim that the entire class shall become truly Comm­unist, through truly Comm­unist propa­ganda, that there­fore party and class shall become one. These, in order to obtain that end, wish to destroy the bour­ge­ois Trade Unions, and replace them by Comm­unist indust­rial organ­isations, thus making those organ­isations, sub­sti­tutes for the Trade Unions, the great­est of class organ­isations (in Ger­many they number ten million prole­tar­ians already), equal to the class. They are against parli­a­ment­arism, thus making every worker, and cons­equ­ently the entire prole­tariat, indep­end­ently revo­lution­ary, which is to say Comm­unist.

They, the Left party, act in perfect accordance therefore with class relat­ions as they really are in West­ern Europe, and are entirely in the right against the Exe­c­ut­ive Committee, the Congress of the Third Inter­national, and you, Comrade Lenin.

Only quite recently you said to a British delegation that in England a quite small Comm­unist Party would be able to accomplish the revo­lution. Here, again, you speak as a Russian, and judge things be the Russian example. And it is on such mistaken notions that the tactics of the Exec­utive and of the Inter­national are based![12].

Those however who think, and say, and propagate these views, do not understand class relations in West­ern Europe and North America[13].

To these observations I need only add that where I speak of the unity of party and class, that is attained at last, and of the possibility of the entire prole­tariat in West­ern Europe and America becoming Comm­unist, I mean unity as big as poss­ible, and a large part of the prole­tariat. I represent total unity and the entire prole­tariat as the Ideal, as the goal towards which we must tend, as the aim of our tact­ics. In all proba­bil­ity it will be impossible and unnecessary to completely achieve it. But the unity of party and class, and the portion of the prole­tariat that has to become Comm­unist, are so immeasurably greater here than in Russia, that this ideal in the tactics must be brought to the fore[14].


Lenin’s Third Argu­ment

Next I come to your third argu­ment: the Russian examples. You mention them repeatedly (on pp 6-9 they occur several times). I have read them with the great­est attention, and, as I admired them before, I do now. I have been on your side ever since 1903. Also when I did not know your motives as yet – the connections being cut off – as at the time of the Brest-Litovsk peace, I defended you with your own motives. Your tactics were certainly brilliant for Russia, and it is owing to these tactics that the Russ­ians have triumphed. But what does this prove for West­ern Europe? Noth­ing, accord­ing to my idea, or very little. The Soviets, the dictatorship of the prole­tariat, the meth­ods for the revo­lution and for reconstruct­ion, all this we accept. Also your inter­national tactics have been – so far at least – exemplary. But for your tactics for the countries of West­ern Europe it is different. And this is only natural.

How could the tactics in the East and West of Europe possibly be the same? Russia, a chiefly agricultural country, but with an indust­rial capi­tal­ism that was only partially highly developed, and very small compared to the land. And, more­over, fed to a large extent by foreign capital! In West­ern Eur­ope, and especially in England and Germany, it is just the opposite. With you: still all the old-fashioned forms of capital, from usury capital up­wards. With us: almost exclusively a high­ly developed banking capital. With you: immense remains of feudal and pre­feudal times, and even from the time of the tribe, of barbarism. With us, and espe­ci­ally in England and Germany: all things, agriculture, comm­erce, transport, industry, under the domination of the most devel­oped capi­tal­ism. With you: imm­ense remains of serfdom, the poor peasants, and in the country a declining middle class. With us: even the poor peasants in connection with modern product­ion, transport, technique and exchange. And in the city as well as in the country the middle class, including the lower layers, in direct contact with the big capit­al­ists.

You still have classes with which the rising prole­tariat can unite. The very existence of these classes helps. The same applies of course to the poli­ti­cal parties. And with us, nothing of all this.

Of course, compromising in all directions, as you so captivatingly descr­ibe it, even making use of the rifts between the Liberals and the land­owners, was alright for you. With us it is impossible. Consequently the diff­er­ence in tactics between the East and the West. Our tactics fit our conditions. They are just as good as yours were under Russian conditions.

I find your Russian examples especially on pages 12, 13, 26, 27, 37, 40, 51 and 52. But no matter what these examples may mean for the Russian trade Union quest­ion (p 27), for West­ern Europe they mean noth­ing at all, as here the prole­tariat needs far stronger weapons. As far as parli­a­ment­arism is concerned, your examples have been taken from a period when the revo­lution had not broken out (pp 16, 26, 41 and 51 for instance), and these, therefore, either do not apply to the point in quest­ion, or, in so far as you could use the parties of the poor peasants and petty-bour­ge­oisie, they are so different from conditions here (pp 12, 37, 40, 41 and 51), as to mean nothing to us[15].

It seems to me, Comrade, that your utterly wrong judgment, the utterly mis­taken con­ception of your book, and no less the tactics of the Executive in Mos­c­ow, are to be attributed exclusively to the fact that you do not know enough about relations over here, or rather that you fail to draw the right conclusions from what you know, that you judge things too much from the Russian point of view.

This means, however – and it should be emphasised here once again, as the fate of the West-European prole­tariat, the world prole­tariat, the world revo­lution depends on this – that neither you, nor the Moscow Executive are able to direct the West-European and consequently the World Revo­lution, as long as you adhere to these tactics.

You ask: is it possible that you, who wish to reform the world, cannot even form a fraction in parliament?


Labour Movement in False Grooves

We answer: this book of yours is a proof in itself that whoever tries to do the latter is bound to lead the Labour move­ment into false grooves, into ruin.

The book deludes the work­ers of West­ern Europe by means of illusions, of the imp­oss­­ible; compromise with the bour­ge­ois parties in the revo­lution.

It makes them believe in something that does not exist: the possibility of the bour­ge­ois parties being divided in West­ern Europe, in the revo­lu­tion. It makes them bel­ieve that here a compromise with the social patr­iots and the wavering (!) elements in parliament can lead to any good, whereas it brings hardly anything but calamity.

Your book leads the West-European prole­tariat back into the morass, from which at the cost of the greatest efforts it has not yet escaped, but is beginning to escape.

It leads us back into the morass, in which men like Scheidemann, Clynes, Renaudel, Kautsky, MacDonald, Longuet, van der Velde, Branting and Troelstra have landed us. (It must inevitably fill all these with great joy, and bour­ge­ois parties likewise, if they understand it). This book is to the Comm­unist revo­luti­­onary prole­tariat what Bern­stein’s book has been for the pre-revo­lutionary prole­tariat. It is the first book of yours that is no good. For West­ern Europe, it is the worst book imaginable.

We, comrades of the Left Wing, must stand close together, must start everything from below upward, and must criticise as keenly as possible all those that in the Third Inter­national do not go the right way[16].

Thus the conclusion to be drawn from all these argu­ments about parli­a­ment­arism, is as follows: your three argu­ments for parli­a­ment­arism either mean very little, or are wrong. And, as in the Trade Union quest­ion, your tactics also on this point are disast­rous for the prole­tariat. And with these mistaken or insignificant motives you hide the fact that you are bringing hundreds of thousands of oppor­tunists into the Third Inter­national.

[1] Originally I considered this a minor point. The attitude of the Spartacus League, however, at the time of the Kapp putsch, and your oppor­tunist brochure, oppor­tunist even on this quest­ion, have convinced me that it is of great importance.

[2] This great influence, this entire ideology of the West of Europe, of the United States and the British colonies, is not understood in Eastern Europe, in Turkey, the Balkans, etc. (to say nothing of Asia, etc.).

[3] The example of Comrade Liebknecht is in itself a proof that our tactics are right. BEFORE the revo­lution, when imperialism was as yet at the summit of power, and suppressed every movement by martial law, he could exercise an enormous influence through his protests in parliament; DURING the revo­lution this was so no longer. As soon , therefore, as the work­ers have taken their lot into their own hands, we must let go of parli­a­ment­arism.

[4] It is true that England has no poor peasants to support capital. But the middle class is corre­spondingly greater, and is united with capi­tal­ism. By means of this advance guard the Eng­lish proletariat shows how it wants to fight: alone, and against all classes of Eng­land and its colonies. And exactly like Germany again: by setting an example. By founding a Comm­unist Party that rejects parli­a­ment­arism, and that calls out to the ent­ire class in England: let go of parli­ament, the symbol of capit­al­ist power. Form your own party and your own industrial organ­isations. Rely on your own strength exclusively.

This had to be so in England, Comrade; it had to come in the long run. This pride and cour­age, born out of the greatest capi­tal­ism. Now that it comes at last, it comes in full force at once.

[5] In England, more even than anywhere else, there is always a great danger of oppor­tunism. Thus also our Comrade Sylvia Pankhurst, who from temperament, instinct and experience, not so much perhaps from deep study, but by mere chance, was such an excellent champion of Left Wing Communism, seems to have changed her views. She gives up anti-parli­a­ment­arism, and consequently the cornerstone of her fight against oppor­tunism, for the sake of the immediate advantage of unity! By so doing she follows the road thousands of English Labour leaders have taken before her: the road towards submission to oppor­tunism and all it leads to, and finally to the bour­ge­oisie. This is not to be wondered at. But that you, Comrade Lenin, should have ind­uced her to do so, should have persuaded her, the only fearless leader of conse­quence in England, this is a blow for the Russian, for the world revo­lution.

One might ask why I defend anti-parli­a­ment­arism for England, whereas above I have rec­omm­ended it only for those countries where the revo­lution has broken out. The answer must be that in the struggle it may often prove necessary to go one step so much to the Left. If, in a country so diseased with oppor­tunism as England, the danger should arise of a young Comm­unist Party falling back into the course of oppor­tunism, through parli­a­ment­arism, it is a tacti­cal necessity to defend anti-parli­a­ment­arism. And thus in many countries of West­ern Europe it may continue to be!

[6] It is true that through the war an infinitely greater number of various elements has come down to the ranks of the proletariat. All elements, though as good as any ele­ment that is not proletarian, cling desperately to capi­tal­ism, and if need be will defend it by armed force, being hostile to Communism.

[7] I lack the space here to point this out in detail. I have done so at length in a brochure entitled The Basis of Communism.

[8] We Dutchmen know this only too well. We have seen the “rifts” disappear before our eyes, in our small, but, through our colonies, highly imperialist country. With us there are no longer demo­cratic, Christian, or other parties. Even the Dutch can judge this better than a Russian, who, I regret to say, seems to judge West­ern Europe after Russia.

[9] It is yet the quest­ion whether these “pure” Labour governments will come here. Maybe that here again you let yourself be misled by the Russian example – Kerensky. Later in this letter, I will point out why in this case, in the March days in Germany, this “pure” socialist govern­ment was not to be supported all the same.

[10] The Russian Comm­unist Party at the time of Yudenitch’s and Denikin’s attacks, numbered 13,287 men, not one ten thousandth part of the population of 150 million. Through special weeks of propa­ganda the number, by January 1920, increased to 220,000. Now it is no more than 600,000, 52% of which are work­ers.

[11] The quotations are from Radek.

[12] I point out here the contradiction between this opinion and the effort of winning millions of wavering elements to the Third International. This contradiction is another proof of the oppor­tunism of your tactics.

[13] A very strong proof of how the Board of the Third International judges all things from the Russian standpoint, is the following: after the German revo­lution had been beaten down, after the Bavarian and Hungarian revo­lutions had been crushed, Moscow said to the German and Hungarian proletariat:

“Be comforted, and bear up, for in March and July 1917, we were also defeated; but in November we won. As it went with us, it will go with you”.

And to be sure, this time again Moscow is saying the same to the Czecho-Slovakian work­ers. But the Russians won in November exclusively because the poor peasants no longer supp­orted Kerensky! Where, O Executive Committee, are the millions of poor peasants in Germ­any, Bavaria, Hungary, and in Czecho-Slovakia? There are none. Your words are just utter nonsense. The perniciousness of these Moscow tact­ics, how­ever, does not lie solely in that they console the work­ers by means of a false image, but more especially in the fact that they fail to draw the right conclusion from the defeat in Germany, Bavaria, Hungary and Czecho-Slovakia. The lesson they teach is this:

“Destroy your Trade Unions, and form industrial unions, thus rendering your Party and your class strong internally”.

Instead of this lesson, however, we only hear: “It will go with you as it did with us!”. Is it not high time that, against these Moscow tactics , there should arise, all over West­ern Europe, one firmly organ­ised, iron oppos­ition? It is a quest­ion of life and death for the world revo­lution itself. And also for the Russian revo­lution.

[14] With regard to this we must bear in mind that here we are always speaking of a disarm­ed proletariat. If through some reason or other, through a new war, or later on, in the course of the revo­lution, the proletariat should once more obtain arms, the above-mentioned conditions do not count.

[15] To deal with all these Russian examples would be too monotonous. I request the reader to read them all over. He will see that what I have said above is right.

[16] Personally I believe that in countries where the revo­lution is far off as yet, and the work­ers are not yet strong enough to make it, parli­a­ment­arism can still be used. The sharpest criticism of the parli­ament­ary delegates is necessary in that case. Other comrades, I believe, are of a different opinion.