«'LEFT-WING' COMMUNISM, AN INFANTILE DISORDER» - CONDEMNATION OF THE RENEGADES TO COME
V. Struggling against the two antibolshevik movements: reformism and anarchism
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Table of contents
I. The setting of the 1920 historical drama
II. Russia's or mankind's history
III. The cornerstones of bolshevism: centralisation and discipline
IV. Historical run (condensed in the time) of bolshevism
V. Struggling against the two antibolshevik movements: reformism and anarchism
The insults to October
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Two waves of sordid bile were befalling the bolsheviks three years after the victory, and the polemics stood on a heated, struggling world. On the answer to be given to these two attacking groups depended the destiny of the organisation of the proletarian movement in Russia and outside, as well as the goal that at that time was beyond dispute for all: to achieve, before the end of the crisis that followed World War 1 and the collapse of Russian tsarism and capitalism, the downfall of the bourgeois power in at least some of the most important European countries.
The two waves of slanders were both founded on the same antimarxist ravings; it suited the pure bourgeois, as well as the petty-bourgeois and the semiproletarians («'Left-wing' communism» is the most overwhelming accusation ever written against the historical deficiency of these latter classes), to seriously believe in the usual cliché: Lenin's bolsheviks had made by force a revolution that should not be. For the right-wing scoundrels, for the 1914 socialchauvinists, the tsar's war at the side of imperialist democracies was not to be disturbed; or the tsar could be set aside, but only in order to better rope in the Russian population to the world massacre. The castrators of marxism also maintained that Russia had the right to make its liberal revolution, but not the proletarian and socialist one, as the economic development was not at the right... cooking point, and waiting for the advanced Europe to move first was de rigueur. Socialpatriotic argument and social-reformist argument.
To go beyond these two historical arguments had been a coup de main against democracy, they said, and even against marxist materialism, which, yesterday as well as today, they want to be just a filthy doormat for democracy.
From the other side, which was correct to call left-wing in a popular essay - those who outlived Vladimir by forty years have not the right to ask him if his choice of vocabules was successful; times were not stinking at that time, but rather gloriously pressing; what's more, by the spring of 1920 the fortunes of revolution were fading, and the last trumps of the terrible game were being played: Lenin knew that a decline in Europe would also mean a decline in Russia, and that no time could be wasted: he therefore had to speak loud and clear, with no subtilisations - from the side thus called for emergency reasons left-wing, they started to echo wickedly the bourgeois, by saying that the bolshevik party had forced both history and the free will of the masses, to establish its own rule, its power, the interests of a leading group which would have soon started to oppress in other ways the proletariat, too early believed to be the winner.
This blasphemy is worse than the former, as in it lies all the misery of the libertarian petty-bourgeois: party means thirst for power, caused by the desire of exploiting the «people», and the instrument of such a thirst is the state, the government formed to lead the revolution: all governors are oppressors. We maintain that no movement joined Lenin in his battle against these irresponsible chatterers like the Italian left marxists, and in 1960 we condemn them with the same conviction of 1920. Our condemnation of stalinism, and of the even worse khruschevism, is not based on the quite infantile complaint: they do all that because they are clung like oysters to the chair of power!
But, in 1920, in almost all left-wing parties of Europe and America this disease was spreading: a left-wing doctrinairism, with such a store, can sabotage more than right-wing doctrinairism; and Lenin rightly struck pitilessly, in that very important moment, although the distinction between the two sorts of danger is evident in all the pages.
We heard him say that both before and after the conquest of power it is more difficult to defeat the petty-bourgeois spirit than the power of big bourgeoisie. His clairvoyant greatness is confirmed by the hard experience of the times. It was the petty-bourgeois who killed the revolution and put the proletariat in a state of lethargy. The bourgeoisie hasn't won with the right (fascism), but rather with the left (democratic and libertarian corruption of the working class).
Such a defamation of October was crowned by the base thesis: social backwardness, absence of a democratic tradition, great ignorance of the barbarian, Asiatic, primitive Russian population: all of them were «national» characters that allowed that «way» to revolution; while we leninists described it in its essential stages: violence, insurrection, destruction of the old state, dictatorship of the proletarian party, revolutionary terror, destruction of rival parties; which we prognosticated - then as well as today - for all countries.
For reformists, as well as for anarchists, all of them staunch admirers of bourgeois civilisation (Lenin says:
«the petty bourgeois shocked by the horrors of capitalism: here is a social phenomenon that, like anarchism, is typical of all capitalist countries. The inconstancy of such revolutionary velleities, their readiness to rapidly turn into subjugation, apathy, imaginations, and even into a wild enthusiasm for this or that fashionable bourgeois tendency,» (and we add: as today science fiction, the admiration of technology, the fetish of scientifical conquests...) «all this is universally known»),
therefore for both wings of the anti-Russian defamation, in the more civilised countries and within more cultured people (which means more dulled in the school of the ruling class and in the superstition of the culture, which was supposed to be, and actually is today, the same everywhere) those tremendous stages will not be necessary, and the persuasion, the democratic way, the peaceful way, will make it possible to avoid those horrors of October. Who has followed the example of the right- and left-wing doctrinairians, who insulted Lenin, who, but the corrupted movement that has just pontificated, after a mysterious conclave, from Moscow?
And who's worthy, like those of 1920, of his fierce reply, but these present-day monks of the Kremlin's sacristy?
Russia and the rest of Europe
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If Lenin's «'Left-wing' communism» is therefore rightly utilised against the external and internal train-bearers of Khruschev's clique, rather than against us, supporters of the integral revolutionary marxism, we believe having shown with sufficient detail that the «sage's» statement demolishes the stalinian blasphemy on «socialism in Russia alone».
We have seen that the starting-point of the historical defence of the great conquest of Russia's October, which must be carried out to the shame of all defamers, in keeping with the preceding paragraph, lies in establishing the international importance. We have nothing to oppose to Lenin's conclusion, i.e., that we must beware of right-wing doctrinairism, that leads to falling into pure bourgeois liberalism and in the complicity with the regime of capital, both in war and in peace; and of «left-wing», or petty-bourgeois, doctrinairism, which falls in a silly rule of individualist parity of a moral preservation that is content with empty negations, which free the rebel, individual while having no concern for the slave society. It is a necessity in all countries, as in all countries such a danger exists, and Russians, who won, show with their party history to have been able to defend themselves from it in time.
But before getting to this «tactical» point, which gave rise to so many historical discussions, the text definitely indicates which steps and stages of the bolshevik revolution are «in the strictest sense» international. We've already given the passages, and we recall that of chapter III:
«Experience has proved that, on certain quite essential questions of the proletarian revolution, all countries will inevitably have to do what Russia has done.» Lenin, Selected Works, p. 519. (In the old French translation: «will inevitably pass by where Russia has passed.»)
The assertion that it is a matter of achieving the proletarian dictatorship in the Western Europe, as the first point of the whole demonstration, and that it is the only «way», and that its stages are those so many times mentioned, is alone sufficient to give its due to Stalin's theory: «construction of the socialist economy in Russia alone», and to the XXth Congress, which seemed to condemn Stalin's ghost: «each country has its own national way to socialism»; and to today's Moscow: «nowadays the whole world is moving toward socialism in a peaceful way».
What was for Lenin compulsory, first becomes optional then actually forbidden. And all this is baptised «marxism-leninism»!
We'll quote a few passages from the Xth and final chapter, «Several conclusions», here translated from the German text. (See also the mentioned English edition, pp. 566 - 576). It aims, in the most vehement and decided way, at curing the «infantile disorder», and dramatises its symptoms, although the prognosis is optimistic. As novices, we preferred to try to defeat the senile disease, the prognosis of which was sinister. After forty years, it is easy for us to be right. If only it weren't true!
However, in this very impassioned tirade (we're not being disrespectful, if the author himself writes: I don't claim to present anything more than the cursory notes of a publicist) the forceful writer seems to write cursory notes on the filthy shames of 1928, of 1956, of 1960.
«In less than two years, the international character of the Soviets, the spread of this form of struggle and organisation to the world working-class movement and the historical mission of the Soviets as the gravedigger, heir and successor of bourgeois parliamentarism and of bourgeois democracy in general, all became clear.»
Lenin seems to put himself the question of the XXth Congress: Are there still in the world national distinctions? And he answers: It's true, we must follow the peculiarities of each country in facing the tackling of
«a single and unique international task for all» (he underlines): «victory over» (right-wing) «opportunism and Left doctrinairism within the working-class movement; the overthrow of the bourgeoisie; the establishment of a Soviet republic and a proletarian dictatorship - such is the basic task in the historical period that all the advanced (and not advanced) countries are going through».
«The chief thing - though, of course, not everything, we're far from having done everything - has already been achieved: the vanguard of the working class has been won over, has ranged itself on the side of Soviet power against parliamentarism,» (our capitals) «on the side of the dictatorship of the proletariat and against bourgeois democracy».
We should copy everything, but it is clear that all that Lenin considered already done, has been undone by the ragamuffins who invite the proletarians to fight for peace, democracy, national freedom, and finally let out, in an undertone... socialism. Emulated, of course, never dictated, and, above all, never conquered by taking up arms.
Let's go to the end of the chapter (and of the quotations):
«The Communists must exert every effort to direct the working-class movement and social development in general along the straightest and shortest road to the victory of Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat on a world-wide scale... World revolution has been powerfully stimulated and accelerated by the horrors, vileness and abominations of the world imperialist war and the hopelessness of the situation created by it, this revolution is developing in width and depth with such rapidity, with such a wonderful wealth of changing forms, with such an edifying refutation of all doctrinairism, that there is every reason to hope for a rapid and complete recovery of the international communist movement from the infantile disorder of 'left-wing' communism.«
In the texts of 1920 «Left-wing» is always in inverted commas.
Lenin, in an outburst of optimism (all revolutionaries have the duty of being an optimist), sees the revolution coming outside Russia, and that's his only concern. When he attributes to it a complex variety of phenomena, he does not certainly mean that, to avoid doctrinairism, we may get rid of the only and unique international features given by the proletarian dictatorship and the destruction of democracy. When he perceived such a danger he did not speak of disorder, but rather of death.
Those who boast of having beaten infantilism in us, have not cured in themselves and in others the left-wing disorder. They died of the right-wing disorder, and they blasphemed Lenin; their corpse shows the violet and repugnant bubo of the opportunist plague.
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