The world bourgeoisie against the October Revolution (part two): Social democracy and Stalinism forever in the bourgeois camp

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In the first part of this article[1] we highlighted the response of all the great imperialist powers to stem the revolutionary wave and prevent it from spreading in the major industrialised countries of Western Europe. Having fought each other for four years the bourgeoisies of Europe now made common cause against their historic enemy: the world proletariat. Among the many forces that the ruling class committed to the preservation of its system was social democracy (whose leadership and right wing had voted for war credits in 1914, thus consecrating their long-standing opportunism and leading them to definitively pass into the camp of the bourgeoisie), which was to play a decisive role in the repression and the mystification of the world revolution. The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) placed itself in the forefront of this offensive since it was the true executioner of the German revolution in January 1919. As Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg had foreseen,[2] the impossibility of the extension of the revolution in the great industrial centers of Western Europe led to the isolation and degeneration of the Soviet Republic and the victory of the Stalinist counter-revolution, which still weighs heavily in the ranks of the world working class.

I - The treason of social democracy

A - The rejection of solidarity with the Russian proletariat

During the revolutionary wave that reached Germany in November 1918, social democracy played the role of the bridgehead of the bourgeoisie in order to isolate the working class of Russia.

When the revolution broke out in Germany, Soviet diplomats were expelled by Scheidemann (under-secretary of state without portfolio in the cabinet of Max Von Baden). At that time, the working masses had not really perceived the progressive abandonment of marxism by the SPD. On the eve of the First World War, hundreds of thousands of workers in Germany were still members. But its dissociation from the Russian revolution confirmed its betrayal and passage into the bourgeois camp.

After the mutiny of sailors in Kiel, Haase transmitted a teletype message to the People's Commissars of the Soviet government, thanking them for sending grain; but, after a pause, the message continued: "Knowing that Russia is oppressed by hunger, we ask you to distribute to the starving Russian people the grain that you intend to sacrifice for the German revolution. The President of the American Republic Wilson guarantees us the sending of flour and bacon necessary to the German population to get through the winter."

As Karl Radek later said, "the outstretched hand hung in the void"! The "socialist" government preferred the aid of a capitalist power rather than that of the Russian workers. Instead, the German government accepted American flour and bacon, huge quantities of luxury items, and other superfluous goods that drained the German Treasury dry. On 14 November, the government sent a telegram to US President Wilson: "The German Government asks the United States Government to telegraph the Chancellor of the Reich (Ebert) to say if it can count on the supply of foodstuffs. on the part of the United States Government, so that the German Government can guarantee domestic order and pay fairly for such supplies."

In Germany, the telegram was widely broadcast to convey the following message to the workers: "renounce the revolution and destroying capitalism, and you will have bread and bacon!" But no condition of this kind had been imposed by the Americans. So, social democracy not only blackmailed the workers but brazenly lied to them that these conditions had been imposed by Wilson himself.[3]

B - Social democracy at the forefront of the counter-revolution

In these conditions, there was no doubt that German social democracy was at the forefront of the counter-revolution. On 10 November 1918, the Berlin Workers' and Soldiers' Council, the supreme body recognised by the new government, decided to immediately re-establish diplomatic relations with the Russian government pending the arrival of its representatives in Berlin.

This resolution was an order that the Peoples’ Commissars should have respected but they did not do it. Although they had defended themselves from the charge in the publication of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), the betrayal and sale of the revolution to the imperialist powers was accepted by the Independents, as proved by the minutes of the meeting of the Council of the Peoples’ Commissars of 19 November 1918: "Following discussion on relations between Germany and the Republic of the Soviets, Haase advises adopting a delaying policy (...) Kautsky agrees with Haase: the decision must be deferred. The Soviet government cannot survive long; in a few weeks, it will not exist (...)"[4] However, while the right wing of this centrist party was gradually moving towards the counter-revolution, the left wing was moving more clearly towards the defence of proletarian interests.

But the zeal of the "socialist" government did not stop there. Faced with the irritation of the Entente with the slowness with which the German troops were withdrawing from the Eastern territories, the German government responded with a diplomatic dispatch which, although sent after the expulsion of the Independent Social Democrats from the government, had been developed with them. This is what was stated:

"The Entente's conviction that German troops would support Bolshevism, either on their own initiative or by higher order, directly or by obstructing anti-Bolshevik measures, does not correspond to reality. We Germans, and therefore our troops, remember that Bolshevism represents an extremely serious threat that must be contained by all means."[5]

If the SPD illustrates in the most extreme way the passage of social democracy into the camp of the bourgeoisie, especially in its open struggle against the revolution in Russia, most of the other major socialist parties in the world were not left out. The tactics of the Italian Socialist Party were, throughout the war, to curb the class struggle under the guise of a falsely neutral position in the world conflict, illustrated by the hypocritical slogan "neither sabotage nor participate", which amounted to trampling on the principle of proletarian internationalism. In France, alongside the fraction that passed bag and baggage into the camp of the bourgeoisie through the vote of the war credits, the socialist movement remained gangrenous with centrism, which only encouraged hostility towards the October revolution and the Bolshevik party.

Nevertheless, a left-wing current began to emerge at the end of 1918 and the beginning of 1919. Even as the bourgeoisie surfed the wave of victory to strengthen patriotic sentiment, the French proletariat paid mainly for the absence of a true marxist party. This is what Lenin pointed out very lucidly: “The transformation of the old type of European parliamentary party, reformist in its work and slightly coloured with a revolutionary tinge, into a truly communist party, is an extraordinarily difficult thing, and it is certainly in France that this difficulty appears most clearly."[6]

C - Social democracy sabotages and torpedoes the workers' councils[7]

In Russia, as in all countries in which soviets were hatching, the socialist parties played a double game. On the one hand, they gave the impression that they favoured the development of the emancipatory struggle of the workers through the soviets. On the other, they did everything possible to sterilise these organs of self-organisation of the class. It was in Germany that this enterprise took on the greatest importance. Apparently favourable to the workers' councils, the socialists proved to be fiercely hostile to them. In this way, their destructive action within the soviets shows that they behaved like true guard dogs of the bourgeoisie. The tactic was simple; it was to undermine the movement from within, to empty the councils of their revolutionary content. The intention was to sterilise the soviets by subordinating them to the bourgeois state and ensuring that they conceived themselves merely as transitional organs until the holding of elections to the National Assembly. The councils should also be open to all layers of the population. In Germany for example, the SPD created "Committees of Public Safety" welcoming all social strata with identical rights.

Moreover, the leaders of the SPD/USPD sabotaged the work of the soviets through the Council of People's Commissars[8] by imposing instructions other than those given by the Executive Council (EC), which was an emanation of the workers' councils, or by ensuring that the EC did not have its own press. Under an SPD majority, the EC even took a position against the strikes of November and December 1918. This demolition job on the self-organisation of the class also took place in Italy between 1919 and 1920 during the great strike wave, since the PSI did everything possible to turn the factory councils into vulgar works committees incorporated into the state and calling for the self-management of production. The left of the party led the fight against this illusion, which could only lock the struggle of the workers inside the narrow perimeters of the factory:

"We want to prevent the absorption by the working class of the idea that it is enough to develop the Councils solely to take hold of the factories and eliminate the capitalists. This would be an extremely dangerous illusion (...) If the conquest of political power has not taken place, the Royal Guard and the carabinieri will be in place to see to the dissipation of all such illusions, with all the mechanisms of oppression, all the forces which the bourgeoisie wields through its apparatus of political power." (Bordiga)[9]

But German social democracy showed its new, true face when it directly assumed the repression of the workers' strikes. The deployment of an intense ideological campaign in favour of the Republic, universal suffrage, the unity of the people, was not enough to destroy the fighting spirit and the consciousness of the proletariat. Thus, now in the service of the bourgeois state, the traitors of the SPD made an alliance with the army to suppress in blood the mass movement which was in continuity with the one born in Russia and which endangered one of the most developed imperialist powers of the world. The commander-in-chief of the army, General Groener, who had collaborated daily with the SPD and the unions during the war as head of armaments projects, explained:

“We allied ourselves to fight Bolshevism. It was impossible to restore the monarchy (...) I had advised the Feldmarschall not to combat the revolution by force, because given the state of mind of the troops, it was to be feared that such a method would end in failure. I proposed that the military high command should ally with the SPD, since there was no party with enough influence among the people, and the masses, to rebuild a governmental force with the military command. The parties of the right had completely disappeared, and it was out of the question to work with the radical extremists. In the first place, we had to snatch power from the hands of the Berlin workers' and soldiers' councils. An undertaking was planned with this aim in view. Ten divisions were to enter Berlin. Ebert agreed (...) We had worked out a program which planned, after the arrival of the troops, to clean up Berlin and disarm the Spartakists. This was also agreed with Ebert, to whom I was especially grateful for his absolute love for the fatherland (...) This alliance was sealed against the Bolshevik danger and the system of councils." (October-November 1925, Zeugenaussage)[10].

The social democratic government also did not hesitate to appeal to the Western European bourgeoisie in the operation to maintain order during the crucial days of January 1919. For all, it was a point of honour to occupy Berlin if the revolution emerged victorious.

On March 26 1919, the English Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote in a memorandum addressed to Clemenceau and Wilson: "The greatest danger in the current situation lies, in my opinion, in the fact that Germany could turn to Bolshevism. If we are wise, we will offer peace to Germany, which, because it is fair, will be better for all reasonable people to the alternative of Bolshevism."[11] Faced with the danger of the "Bolshevisation of Germany ", the main political leaders of the bourgeoisie did not show themselves eager to disarm the enemy of yesterday. During a debate in the Senate on the issue in October 1919, Clemenceau did not hide the reasons: “Because Germany needs to defend itself and we have no interest in having a second Bolshevik Russia in the centre of Europe; one is enough".[12]

While the armistice had just been signed, the Ebert-Noske-Scheidemann-Erzberger government sealed the peace with Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Wilson by a military pact directed against the German proletariat. Subsequently, the violence with which the bloodhound Noske and his freikorps unleashed during the "bloody week " from January 6 to 13, 1919, was matched only by the terrible repression the Versaillese waged against the Communards during the bloody week of May 21 to 28, 1871. Like 38 years earlier, the proletariat was subjected to the "unmasked savagery and lawless revenge" (Karl Marx) of the bourgeoisie. But the bloodshed of January 1919 was only the prologue to a much more terrible punishment, which subsequently fell on the workers of the Ruhr, Central Germany, Bavaria ...

D- The democratic mystification in the "victor" countries

In the main allied countries, the victory over the forces of the Triple Alliance did not prevent the reaction of the working class to the barbarism experienced by Europe between 1914 and 1918. But despite the resounding echo of October 1917 in the proletariat of Western Europe, the Entente bourgeoisie used the outcome of the war to channel the development of the proletarian struggles between 1917 and 1927. While the imperialist war was the expression of the general crisis of capitalism, the bourgeoisie managed to push the lie that it was just an anomaly of history; that it was "the war to end wars", that society would recover stability and that the revolution had no place in it. In the most modern countries of capitalism, the bourgeoisie hammered home the argument that from now on all classes should participate in the construction of democracy. The time was for so-called reconciliation and not social confrontations. With this in mind, in February 1918 the British parliament adopted the Representation of the People Act, which enlarged the electoral population and granted the right to vote to women over thirty. In a context where social struggles were raging in Great Britain, the most experienced bourgeoisie in the world, with great skill, was trying to divert the working class from its class terrain. As Sylvia Pankhurst said at the time, this clever manoeuvre was motivated by the threat of the spread of the October Revolution to the western countries:

Those events in Russia evoked a response throughout the world not only amongst the minority who welcomed the idea of Soviet Communism, but also amongst the upholders of reaction. The latter were by no means oblivious to the growth of Sovietism when they decided to popularise the old Parliamentary machine by giving to some women both votes and the right to be elected.” (Workers’ Dreadnought, 15th December 1923)[13]

Moreover, the bourgeoisie was very good at using the outcome of the war by playing on the division between the ‘victorious’ and ‘vanquished’ nations in order to break the dynamic of generalisation of the struggles. For example, following the dislocation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the proletariat of the various territorial entities was subjected to the propaganda of national liberation struggles. In the same way, while in the vanquished countries the proletariat was steered towards gaining "revenge", in the conquering countries, where the proletariat aspired most for peace after four years of war, the news from Russia provoked a new wave of class militancy, particularly in France and Great Britain. This momentum was channelled into chauvinism and the hype of the victory of civilisation against the "dirty boches".

Faced with the deterioration of living conditions, following the worsening of the crisis from the 1920s, workers’ struggles erupted in England, France, Germany and Poland. But these movements, in many cases violently repressed, were in fact the last gasps of the revolutionary wave which reached its final convulsions during the terrible repression of workers in Shanghai and Canton in 1927.[14] The bourgeoisie had thus succeeded in coordinating its forces in order to finish stifling and repressing the last bastions of the revolutionary wave. Thus, as we have already shown, it must be recognised that war does not create the most favourable conditions for the generalisation of the revolution. In fact the global economic crisis as it has unfolded since the 1960s appears as a much more valid material base for the world revolution, since it affects all countries without exception and cannot be stopped unlike the imperialist war. The socialist parties had a central role in promoting democracy, and the republican and parliamentary system was presented as a step forward on the road to revolution. In Italy, as early as 1919, the PSI unambiguously advocated the recognition of the democratic system by pushing the masses to vote in the 1919 elections. An aggravating circumstance was that the electoral success that followed was approved by the Communist International. However, once in command, the socialists ran the state just like any bourgeois faction. In the following years, the antifascist theses propagated by Gramsci and the Ordinovists led the Italian working class no more and no less towards inter-classism. Arguing that fascism expressed a peculiarity of Italian history, Gramsci advocated the establishment of the Constituent Assembly as an intermediate step between Italian capitalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. According to him, "a class of an international character must, in a certain sense, become nationalised". It was therefore necessary that the proletariat make an alliance with the bourgeoisie in a constituent national assembly where the deputies of "all the democratic classes of the country", elected by universal vote, would elaborate the future Italian constitution. At the 5th world congress, Bordiga responded to these mistakes that led the proletariat to leave its class terrain in the name of democratic illusions:

"We must reject the illusion that a transitional government would be naive enough to allow a situation to occur in which, through legal means, parliamentary manoeuvres and more or less skilful expediency, we could lay siege to the bourgeoisie, ie legally deprive them of their whole technical and military apparatus, and quietly distribute arms to the workers. This is a truly infantile conception! Making' a revolution is not that simple!"[15]

II. Campaigns of slander accompany the bloody repression

 Propaganda organised at the highest levels of the state  

“Parallel to the military preparation of the civil war against the working class, they proceeded with the ideological preparation" (Paul Frölich). Indeed, very early on, in the weeks and months following the revolution in Russia, the bourgeoisie worked to reduce this event to the seizure of power by a minority who had hijacked the will of the masses and led society into disorder and chaos. But this intense anti-Bolshevik and anti-Spartacist propaganda campaign was not the product of a few zealous individuals determined to act as the guard dogs of the ruling class but a policy of all the main bourgeois factions directed from the highest levels of the state apparatus. As we developed in an article of International Review No. 155, the First World War was a defining moment in the state's massive takeover of control of information through propaganda and censorship. The goal was clear; to put ideological pressure on the population to ensure victory in this total war. With the opening of the revolutionary period, the goal of state propaganda was equally clear: to pressure the masses to ensure that they moved away from the organisations of the proletariat and ensure the victory of the counter-revolution. The great German industrialists were the most determined and broke their piggy banks for the "good cause" of the bourgeois order. Thanks to the donation of a few thousand marks from the banker Helfferich and the politician Friedrich Naumann, a "General Secretariat on the study of and fight against Bolshevism" was founded on 1 December 1918 in Berlin. On 10 January its founder, a certain Stadtler, brought together nearly 50 German industrialists to hear their views. Immediately after, Hugo Stinnes, one of the biggest magnates of German industry, rallied the top-hatted troops:

"I am of the opinion that after this presentation all discussion is superfluous, I fully share the speaker's point of view. If the world of industry, commerce and banking does not have the will and is not able to pay an insurance premium of 500 million marks to guard against the danger just revealed to us, we do not deserve to be considered as representatives of the German economy. I ask that we close this meeting and ask Messrs. Mankiewitz, Borsig, Siemens, Deutsch, etc., etc. (he quoted about eight names) to go with me to the next room for us to agree immediately on a method of apportioning this contribution."[16]

With these hundreds of millions of marks of subsidies, several offices could be created to carry out the anti-revolutionary campaign. The Anti-Bolshevik League (formerly the Reich Association against Social Democracy) was certainly the most active in spitting venom on the revolutionaries of Russia and Germany by distributing millions of leaflets, posters, leaflets and posters or organisation of meetings. This first office was part of one of the two counter-revolutionary centres with the Bürgerrat and the Hotel Eden, where the headquarters of the Guards Cavalry Rifle Division were located.

The propaganda organisation "Building and becoming, society for the education of the people and the improvement of national labour forces", founded by Karl Erdmann, was directly financed by Ernst Von Borsig and Hugo Stinnes. The latter also subsidised the nationalist press and far-right parties to carry out propaganda against the Spartacists and Bolsheviks.

But in most cases, social democracy was the mastermind in manipulating opinion within the working class. As Paul Frölich relates:

It began with the dissemination of insipid speeches celebrating the victory of the November Revolution. Promises, lies, reprimands and threats followed. The Heimatdienst, an institution created during the war to manipulate public opinion, disseminated hundreds of millions of leaflets, pamphlets and posters, most often written by the Social Democrats, in support of the reaction. Shamelessly distorting the meaning of previous revolutions and the teachings of Marx, Kautsky proclaimed his indignation at theprolongation of the revolution. They made ‘Bolshevism’ a scarecrow for children. This concert was also led by the Social Democrats, the same gentlemen who during the war had acclaimed the Bolsheviks (described as faithful followers of Marx's thought) in the columns of their newspapers because they thought that the struggles of Russian revolutionaries would help Ludendorff and company to definitively defeat the Western powers. Now, on the contrary, they spread terrible stories about the Bolsheviks, going so far as to circulate fake ‘official documents’ according to which the Russian revolutionaries had made women common property.”[17]

Revolutionaries reduced to the level of bloody savages

From then on, the revolutionary forces defending proletarian internationalism were the main targets, especially after the Russian workers seized power in October 1917. Aware of the danger that the extension of the revolution posed to world capital, the most developed states carried out a veritable campaign of slander against the Bolsheviks in order to prevent any feeling of sympathy or attempt at fraternisation. During the 1919 elections, the French bourgeoisie took the opportunity to focus the campaign on the "red peril" by fuelling the demonisation of the revolution and the Bolsheviks. Georges Clemenceau, one of the great actors of the counter-revolution, was particularly active since he campaigned on the theme of "national unity" and the "threat of Bolshevism". A booklet and a famous poster titled "How to fight against Bolshevism?" even painted a portrait of the Bolshevik like a beast, with shaggy hair and a knife between his teeth. All this helped to portray the proletarian revolution as a barbaric and bloodthirsty enterprise. At the founding congress of the Communist International, George Sadoul reported on the extent of the slanders poured out by the French bourgeoisie:

When I left Paris in September of 1917, just a few weeks before the October revolution, public perception of Bolshevism in France was that of a hideous caricature of socialism. Bolshevik leaders were viewed as criminals or madmen; their army was depicted as a horde of several thousand fanatics or outlaws (…) I am ashamed to confess that nine-tenths of both the majority and the minority Socialists held the same view. In our defence we can only point to mitigating circumstances: we were not the least bit informed about the situation in Russia and, further, newspapers of every stripe printed fabrications and falsified documents to prove the corruption, cruelty, and unscrupulousness of the Bolsheviks. The theme of a seizure of power by this ‘gang of bandits’ had a major impact in France. The slanders hiding the true face of Russian communism became even more vicious with the signing of the Brest-Litovsk peace. Anti-Bolshevik agitation reached a fever pitch.”[18]

Although the governments of the Triple Entente were able to play on the momentum of victory to calm discontent within the working class, they still had to divert all its revolutionary inclinations towards the ballot box. Here the bourgeoisie showed its true face; vile, manipulative, lying! The anti-Bolshevism spread by the press, the media and the academic world for several decades therefore took root very early, during the revolutionary wave, in the highest circles of the state apparatus. The military offensive on the Russian frontiers and the bloody repression of the German working class in January 1919 had to be accompanied by an intense propaganda campaign in order to deflect the growing sympathy for the proletarian revolution among exploited strata around the world. Among the many counterrevolutionary propaganda posters produced in France, England and Germany, the main targets remained the political organisations of the proletariat, who were made out to be responsible for unemployment, war and hunger, and regularly accused of sowing disorder and crime.[19] As Paul Frölich sums it up, "the posters in the street represented Bolshevism as a wild beast with a jaws wide open, ready to bite".

The call to kill the vanguard of the proletariat

By November 1918, the German bourgeoisie had made Spartacus the main target. To neutralise the influence of the organisation with the masses it tried to accuse it of all evils; Spartacus became the scapegoat, a real plague for social order and German capital, to be done away with. The picture portrayed by Frölich, ten years after the events, is edifying:

“Every crime committed in the big cities had only one culprit: Spartacus! The Spartacists were accused of all robberies. Delinquents in uniform, protected by official documents, true or false, rushed into houses, smashing and pillaging everything: it was Spartacus who sent them! All suffering, all menacing danger had only one origin: Spartacus! Spartacus, it’s anarchy, Spartacus, it’s famine, Spartacus, it’s terror!"[20]

The ignominy of social democracy and the entire German bourgeoisie went even further, as Vorwärts[21] organised a campaign of denigration and hatred against Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and other influential activists of the Spartacus League: "Karl Liebknecht, a certain Paul Levi and the impetuous Rosa Luxemburg, who have never worked at a vice or lathe, are ruining our dreams and those of our fathers (...) If the Spartacist clique wants to ban us, we and our future, then Karl Liebknecht and company are also banned!”

Hate speech succeeded in organising a real witch hunt for revolutionaries. The League for the Fight against Bolshevism promised to offer 10,000 marks for the capture of Karl Radek or for information that could lead to his arrest. But the main targets remained Liebknecht and Luxemburg. In December 1918, a manifesto placed on the walls of Berlin called for nothing less than their murder. Its contents set the tone of the degree of violence which social democracy unleashed on Spartacus: "Worker, citizen! The homeland is on the brink of ruin. Save it! The threat does not come from outside, but from within: the Spartacus group. Strike their leader! Kill Liebknecht! And you will have peace, work and bread! The soldiers of the front." A month before, the soldiers' council of Steglitz (a small town in Brandenburg) had threatened that soldiers would shoot Liebknecht and Luxemburg on sight if they went to a barracks to give "incendiary speeches". The bourgeois press was in reality spreading a real pogrom atmosphere, "it sang of walls splattered with the brains of those shot, transforming the entire bourgeoisie into a bloodthirsty horde, drunk with denunciations, dragging the suspects (revolutionaries and others, perfectly harmless) before the rifles of the firing squads, and all these howls culminated in a single murderous cry: Liebknecht, Luxemburg! "[22] The prize for ignominy can be awarded to Vorwärts which, on 13 January, published a poem that made the main members of Spartacus out to be deserters and cowards who had betrayed the German proletariat and deserved only death:

                                            “Many hundred corpses in a row—
                                             Karl, Radek, Rosa and Co —
                                             Not one of them is there, not one of them is there!

We all know that these calumnies had tragic results since on 15 January 1919, Karl and Rosa, these two great militants of the revolutionary cause were murdered by the freikorps. The completely false account that Vorwärts gave of these crimes alone illustrated the mentality of the bourgeoisie, this "pitiful and cowardly" class as already emphasised by Karl Marx in the 18 Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. According to the newspapers on the evening of 16 January, Liebknecht was killed during an escape attempt and Rosa Luxemburg lynched by the crowd. As reported by Paul Frölich, the commander of the Guard Cavalry Rifle Division, whose members carried out the two murders, issued a statement completely falsifying the events which was repeated by the entire press, all this "giving vent to a web of lies, cover-ups and law-breaking that provided the backdrop for a shameful series of comedies as interpreted by the judiciary."[23]

After considerable labours, all these fabrications were exposed by Leo Jogiches who, in collaboration with a commission of inquiry created by the central council and the executive council of Berlin, restored the truth by bringing to light the unfolding of these crimes and publishing the photograph of the murderers’ feast after their crimes. He thus signed his own death warrant! On March 10, 1919, he was arrested and murdered in the prison of the Berlin Police Headquarters. As for the culprits, they escaped with acquittals or short prison sentences.

Yesterday, Rosa Luxemburg was this red witch devouring "good little Germans", today she is the "good democrat”, "the anti-Lenin" – who is still generally presented as a "dangerous revolutionary" and “inventor of totalitarianism". The ruling class is full of contradictions, but it must be said, the two sides of this treatment of Rosa Luxemburg are not strictly speaking in contradiction. They are a new illustration of what the bourgeoisie does with the memory of great people who dared to challenge their world "without heart and without spirit":

“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonise them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the ‘consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarising it. Today, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the workers’ movement concur in this doctoring of Marxism.” (Lenin, The State and Revolution).

III - Stalinism, true executioner of the revolution

The failure of the revolutionary wave makes a bed for Stalin

The bloody crushing of the revolution in Germany was a terrible blow to the world proletariat. As Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg affirmed, the salvation of the revolution on a world scale depended on the ability of the workers of the great capitalist powers to seize power in their own countries. In other words, the future of humanity depended on the extension of the revolutionary wave that began in Russia. But this did not take place. The failure of the proletariat in Germany, Hungary and Italy sounded the death knell of the revolution in Russia, a death by asphyxiation because it no longer had sufficient breath within it to give impetus to the workers of the whole world. It was in this agony "precisely that Stalinism intervened, in total rupture with the revolution when after the death of Lenin, Stalin seized the reins of power and, from 1925, put forward his thesis of the construction of socialism in one country’, through which the counter-revolution was installed in all its horror".[24]

And now, for decades, historians, journalists and other commentators of all kinds falsify history by trying to find a continuity between Lenin and Stalin, and feed the lie that communism is equal to Stalinism. In fact, there is an abyss between Lenin and the Bolsheviks on the one side and Stalinism on the other.

The state that emerged after the revolution more and more escaped from the working class and gradually absorbed the Bolshevik Party, where the weight of the bureaucrats had become preponderant. Stalin was the representative of this new layer of rulers whose interests were in total opposition to the salvation of the world revolution. The thesis of "socialism in one country" served precisely to justify the policy of this new bourgeois class in Russia to fall back on the national economy and the state as guarantor of the status quo and the capitalist mode of production. Lenin never defended such positions. On the contrary, he always defended proletarian internationalism, considering this principle as a compass preventing the proletariat from straying onto the bourgeoisie's terrain. Although he could not anticipate what Stalinism would do, in the last years of his life Lenin was aware of some of the dangers threatening the revolution and in particular struggled against the conservative attraction of the state for the revolutionary forces. Although he was unable to prevent this, he warned against the bureaucratic gangrene without finding a solution to the problem. Similarly, Lenin was very suspicious of Stalin and was opposed to him receiving any significant responsibilities. In his "testament" of 4 January 1923, he even tried to remove him from the post of secretary general of the party where Stalin was "concentrating a huge power which he abuses brutally". A vain attempt since Stalin already controlled the situation.[25]

As we highlighted in our pamphlet, The Collapse of Stalinism:

It was on the ruins of the 1917 revolution that Stalinism was able to establish its domination, thanks to the most radical negation of communism constituted by the monstrous doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’, totally alien to the proletariat and to Lenin; that the USSR became again not only a capitalist state in its own right but also a state where the proletariat has been subjected more brutally and more ferociously than elsewhere to the interests of national capital renamed ‘the interests of the socialist fatherland’."

The USSR: an imperialist bourgeois state against the working class

Once in power, Stalin wanted to stay there. By the end of the 1920s he had in his hands all the control levers of the soviet state apparatus. We have shown, in one of the first texts we produced on the revolution in Russia, the process that led to the degeneration of the revolution and the emergence of a new ruling class making this country a capitalist state in its own right.[26]

Thus, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was "Soviet" only in name!

"Not only was the slogan of the entire revolutionary period – All power to the soviets’ - abandoned and banned, but the dictatorship of the proletariat, through which the power of the workers' councils had been the driving force and soul of the revolution and which so revolts and upsets our dear "democrats" today, (...) was totally destroyed and became an empty shell devoid of meaning, leaving room in its place for an implacable dictatorship of the party-state over the proletariat."[27]

Since Stalinism was the product of the degeneration of the revolution, it never belonged to any other camp than that of the counter-revolution. Moreover, it found its full and complete place in the great concert of bourgeois nations precisely for this reason. It was a masterful force for mystifying the working class and making it believe that communism did indeed exist in Eastern Europe, that its progress was momentarily slowed down, and that its total victory rested on the support of the workers of the whole world for the political line decided by Moscow. This great illusion was of course maintained by all the communist parties around the world. In order to spread the lie on a large scale, Moscow and the national CPs organised, among other things, the famous trips to the Soviet Union of workers' delegations, a stay during which all the "pomp" of the regime were shown to "political tourists" who were then mandated to preach the good word in their factories and cells on their return. Here is how Henri Guilbeaux described this masquerade:

"When the worker goes to Russia he is carefully selected, he can only go there in groups chosen from Party members but also elements known to be ‘sympathizers’ from the trade unions and the socialist party, who are very suggestible and easy to brainwash. Delegates thus ‘elected’ form a workers' delegation. Once arrived in Russia, these delegates are officially received, escorted, pampered, celebrated. Everywhere they are accompanied by guides and translators. They are given presents. (...) Wherever they go, they are told: "This belongs to the workers, and here it is the workers who direct". On their return, the workers' delegates who have been identified as being the most able to say good things about the USSR are put on a pedestal. They are then invited to come and give their impressions in public meetings.”[28]

These political brainwashing trips had as their sole objective to maintain the myth of "socialism in one country", a true falsification of the programme defended by the revolutionary movement which, since its origins, has been an international movement precisely because, as Engels wrote in 1847, the political offensive of the working class against the ruling class takes place from the outset at a world level: “The communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilised countries (…) It will have a powerful impact on the other countries of the world, and will radically alter the course of development which they have followed up to now, while greatly stepping up its pace. It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range. [29]

Socialism in one country meant the defence of national capital and participation in the imperialist game. It also meant the dissipation of the revolutionary wave. Under these conditions, Stalin became a respectable man in the eyes of the Western democracies, now anxious to facilitate the insertion of the USSR into the capitalist world. While the world bourgeoisie had not hesitated to establish a military cordon around Russia at the time of the revolution, this policy changed radically once the danger had dissipated. Moreover, following the crisis of 1929, the USSR became a central issue and the whole Western bourgeoisie tried to attract the good graces of Stalin. Thus, the USSR joined the League of Nations in 1934 and a mutual security pact was signed between Stalin and Laval, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose communiqué the following day illustrated the anti-working class policy of the USSR: "Mr. Stalin understands and fully endorses the national defence policy made by France to maintain its armed force in terms of its security". As we showed in our pamphlet The collapse of Stalinism:

"It was this policy of alliance with the USSR that would allow, in the aftermath of the Laval-Stalin pact, the constitution of the ‘Popular Front’ in France, signalling the reconciliation of the PCF with social democracy for the needs of French capital in the imperialist arena: after Stalin decided in favour of the arming of France, suddenly the PCF in turn voted for military credits and signed an agreement with the radicals and the SFIO."

The Stalinist terror, or the liquidation of the old guard of the Bolshevik Party

The whole bourgeoisie understood that Stalin was the man of the situation, the one who was going to eradicate the last vestiges of the revolution of October 1917. Besides, the democracies were more benevolent towards him when he began to break up and exterminate the generation of proletarians and revolutionaries who had participated in the revolution of October 1917. The liquidation of the old guard of the Bolshevik Party expressed Stalin's determination to avoid any form of conspiracy around him in order to consolidate his power; but it also struck a blow to the consciousness of the proletariat of the whole world by pushing it to defend the USSR against so-called traitors to the revolutionary cause.

In these conditions, the European democracies did not hesitate to support and participate in this macabre enterprise. If they were very enthusiastic when it came to bleating beautiful hymns to Human Rights, they were much less willing to welcome and protect the main members of the workers' opposition, starting with Trotsky, its principal representative. After being expelled from Russia in 1928, the latter was greeted by a Turkey hostile to Bolshevism, who, in cahoots with Stalin, let him enter the territory without a passport at the mercy of the residue of white Russians determined to kill him. The former chief of the Red Army escaped several murder attempts. His Calvary continued after leaving Turkey when all the democracies of Western Europe, in agreement with Stalin, refused to grant him the right of asylum; "Chased by murderers in the pay of Stalin or the remains of white armies, Trotsky would be sentenced to wander from one country to another until by the mid-30s, the whole world became for the former head of the Red Army a ‘planet without a visa’".[30] Social democracy proved the most zealous to serve Stalin. Between 1928 and 1936, all Western governments collaborated with him and closed their borders to Trotsky or, as in Norway, put him under house arrest by prohibiting any political activity and any criticism of Stalin. In another example, in 1927 Christian Rakovsky, USSR ambassador in Paris, was recalled to Moscow following the request of the French government who considered him "persona non grata" after he signed the platform of the Left Opposition. The "homeland of the rights of man and of the citizen" delivered him ignobly to his executioners and added its stone to the building of the great Stalinist purges. And yet today these same democracies and their shoddy intellectuals denounce them loudly in order to make people forget that they themselves participated in these killings.

For all the oppositionists, the "great democracies" were nothing more than antechambers of the Stalinist death camps or the playgrounds of the GPU agents, authorised to penetrate their territories to silence the oppositionists. Similarly, the Western press relayed the smear campaign, designating the accused as Hitler's agents, justifying the purges and convictions by relying, without questioning them, on the minutes of the court sittings. Of course, the Communist parties, oozing with zeal, went the furthest in the slander and justification of such a mockery of justice. After the conviction of the sixteen defendants of the first Moscow Trial, the central committee of the PCF and the cells of several factories passed resolutions approving the execution of these "Trotskyist terrorists". The newspaper L'Humanité also distinguished itself by calling for the murder of the "Hitler-Trotskyists". But perhaps the most foul celebration of Stalinist terror is Hymn to the GPU, a so-called poem by Louis Aragon[31] in 1931, who, after being a poet in his youth, became a Stalinist preacher and never, till his last breath, stopped singing the praises of Stalin and the USSR!

Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Smirnov, Evdokimov, Sokolnikov, Piatakov, Bukharin, Radek ... to name only the best-known of the condemned. Although some were more or less compromised in the process of Stalinisation, all these fighters of the proletariat embodied the legacy of October 1917. By liquidating them, Stalin murdered the revolution a little more; for behind the farce of these trials was hidden the tragedy of the counter-revolution. These great purges, far from expressing the purification of society for the "construction of socialism", marked a new assault on the memory and transmission of the legacies of the revolutionary movement.

Cultivated or discredited, the myth of communism in the Soviet Union has always been utilised by the bourgeoisie against the consciousness of the proletariat. If it had been thought that the break-up of the Eastern bloc between 1989 and 1991 would bring about the fall of this great deception, it was not so. On the contrary, the equation of Stalinism with communism has only been reinforced during the last thirty years, although among the revolutionary minorities Stalinism is recognised as the worst product of the counter-revolution.


One hundred years after the events, the spectre of the October 1917 Revolution still haunts the bourgeoisie. And to try to guard against a new revolutionary episode that would shake its world, it is bent on burying the historical memory of the proletariat. For this, its intelligentsia tirelessly strives to rewrite history until the lie takes the appearance of a truth.

Therefore, faced with the propaganda of the ruling class, the proletariat must plunge back into its history and strive to learn from past episodes. It must also question, and we hope that this article will give food for thought, the reasons that push the bourgeoisie to denigrate in an ever more infamous way one of the most glorious events in the history of humanity, this moment where the working class demonstrated that it is possible to envisage a society where the exploitation of man by man will end.


January 27, 2019.


[1] International Review 160

[2] See in particular Rosa Luxemburg's pamphlet on the Russian Revolution.

[3] See P. Frölich, R. Lindau, A. Schreiner, J.Walter, Révolution et Contre-révolution en Allemagne (1918-1920), Editions Science Marxiste, 2013.

[4] Quoted in P. Frölich, Op. Cit., p.25.

[5] Quoted in P. Frölich, Op. Cit., p.26.

[6] Cited in Annie Kriegel, Aux origines du Communisme français, Flammarion, 1978.

[7] For a more complete approach see the article "Revolution in Germany: The Beginnings of the Revolution (II)", International Review n ° 82.

[8] The Council of People's Commissars was nothing more than the name taken by the new government on November 10 1918, composed of Ebert, Scheidemann and others. This appellation gave the impression that the SPD leaders were in favour of the workers' councils and the development of the class struggle in Germany.

[9] Quoted in "Revolution and counter-revolution in Italy (1919-1922), Part 1”, International Review n° 2.

[10] Quoted in "The German Revolution Part II: The start of the revolution", International Review n° 82.

[11] Cited in Gilbert Badia, Les Spartakistes. 1918: l’Allemagne en révolution, Editions Aden, 2008, p.296.

[12] Ibid, p.298.

[13] See the article in ICC Online: "Suffragism or communism?", February 2018.

[14] See the article "The first revolutionary wave of the world proletariat" in International Review n° 80.

[15] "Revolution and counter-revolution in Italy Part II: Facing fascism", International Review n° 3.

[16] Cited in G. Badia, Op. Cit., p.286.

[17] Quoted in . Frölich, R. Lindau, A. Schreiner, J. Walcher, Révolution et contre-révolution en Allemagne. 1918-1920. De la fondation du Parti communiste au putsch de Kapp, Editions Science marxiste, 2013.

[18] John Riddell (Ed.), Founding the Communist International, Pathfinder, 1987, p.101.

[19] See our article "The birth of totalitarian democracy", International Review n° 155.

[20] P. Frölich, R. Lindau, A. Schreiner, J. Walcher, Op. Cit., p.45.

[21] The main press organ of the SPD.

[22] P. Frölich, Rosa Luxemburg, L'Harmattan, 1991, p 364.

[23] P. Frölich, R. Lindau, A. Schreiner, J. Walcher, Op. Cit., p 137.

[24] ICC pamphlet, The Collapse of Stalinism (in French).

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] H. Guilbeaux, La fin des soviets, Société française d’éditions littéraires et techniques, 1937, p 86.

[29] The Principles of Communism, 1847.

[30] ICC pamphlet, The collapse of Stalinism.

[31] Poet, novelist and journalist. He joined the PCF in 1927 and would not leave until his death. He remained faithful to Stalin and Stalinism all his life and approved of the Moscow Trials.

Development of proletarian consciousness and organisation: 


Russian Revolution