The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 2: The Eve of Revolution

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“That flammable substance, which in January 1918 burst into full flame of armed conflict between the basic classes of Finnish society – workers and capitalists, had been accumulating for decades in the depths of this system. With the rise of capitalistic production, here too the struggle between labour and capital, between worker and capitalist, became the basic contradiction of the whole society. Unjust relations of landownership and the utterly vulnerable status of the vast masses of landless rural people, had created a situation where the capitalists had plenty of very cheap labour at their disposal. Finnish capitalists took full advantage of the situation and wasted no time in setting up a system just as ruthless and unequal as that of the older capitalist countries. The situation was even more favorable for the capitalist class because the workers were at this time timid, scared and did not attempt any kind of organized resistance. Instead they suffered the oppression and injusticy quietly, and this way the bitterness and anger slowly built up among them.” (Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota p. 9)

 
Different social classes before the outbreak of the revolution:

The Industrial Workers:

“In the old system workers had needed to submit to the ‘legal guardianship’ of their employer, which often meant police levels of surveillance and control by the capitalist. This was officially abolished in 1868 but employers still for a long time considered it justified to continue their old ways. The strict work discipline regulations allowed the employers in many ways to blackmail their workers, punish them for the slightest disobedience, or carelessness, impose heavy fines and thus push down the already meager wages. The employers were especially worried about worker’s organizing, unless they were joining organizations and associations created and controlled by the employers themselves. It was common for capitalists to threaten to fire all workers who joined unions or worker organizations. This happened for example in Pinjaiset, Fiskars and Högfors factories. In November 1903 in Varkaus nearly 200 workers were evicted from their homes for joining the workers’ association. Often buying or subscribing to working class newspapers was enough of a reason to be fired and evicted.” (Lehen, pp. 9-10)

“Despite rapid industrial development having begun in the 1860s it was as late as the 1890s when the country saw the breakout of the first big strike movements. Out of these the strikes of construction workers in Helsinki in 1896 and the baker strike of 1899 have to be mentioned. In both cases the Finnish capitalists shamelessly colluded with the Russian authorities to break the strike: by sending in strike breakers from Russia. In these initial strikes, alongside the struggle for higher wages, the demands centered around shortening the working day which was either unbearable long, or not limited at all in its length, as well as demands for the most basic work safety regulations. During this struggle based on the most vitally necessary demands, the class consciousness of the workers began to awaken. This caused worry among the capitalists, who saw the mass mobilization of the workers as a sign that the workers were turning to revolutionary socialism…

A sign of this worry was the capitalists’ attempt to push the workers towards wrightism, a reformist tendency lead by the bourgeoisie, which told the workers to remain calm and “not demand too much”. Eventually the workers got tired of wrightism, as the experience of their every day lives quickly taught them that improvements in their lives, were never gained by begging and surrendering, but only by forcing the capitalists into granting the workers’ demands.

For this reason the workers turned their backs on wrightism and began more boldly to support the Socialists who expressed the will to directly tackle social inequality, and put forward concrete demands instead of pious wishes. Strenghtening of these sentiments led in 1899 to the creation of the Finnish Workers’ Party… which declared a “split from the bourgeoisie”. (Lehen, pp. 10-11)

“The founding of an independent workers’ party had a crucial significance to the working class and it proved to be a powerful catalyst in favor of developing mass mobilization. An increasing determination and steadfastness was becoming evident in the workers’ struggle.

The struggle took fairly intense forms in 1904 in Voikkaa where the conduct of a foreman sparked the anger of the workers and caused a strike. The employers called in the Finnish-Russian authorities who sent a gang of police to crush the strike. The police arrested the labour leaders and evicted from company apartments the workers who had been fired for participating in the strike.

In 1905 and 1906 there were several strikes that lasted for several weeks, even months. The metal workers’ strike, which consisted of 3000 workers lasted for 19 weeks. The construction workers were able through their disciplined struggle to win a 9-hour working day.

The strike that proved most significant was the logger strike of the Kemi-company in North, which began on logging sites in Kuolajärvi and Sodankylä and spread to Kemi, and which lasted consecutively almost the entire year 1906. The great single-minded determination and discipline of the workers was demonstrated by the fact that out of the 3000 strikers, during the entire year only couple dozen became strike breakers. The most immediate cause of the strike was that the Kemi-company had taken for itself a monopoly on selling food to the workers, had forced the workers to only purchase food from the company store at very high prices, or risk being fired. The food also proved to be dangerously rotten and unfit for human consumption but the employers had arrogantly ignored the workers’ complaints. The workers demanded that the company must sell them only clean and edible foodstuffs. Along with this the workers demanded a shortening of the work day to 10 hours per day, an increase in wages, and the abolition of the blacklist system.
Not agreeing to the workers’ demands the Kemi-company together with the authorities took action to stop the “rebellion”. It closed down the food shops trying to starve the workers into submission. As the company owned all the food stores, the workers had no other option to avoid starvation then to break open the doors of the food shops and organize food distribution to the starving, which was done according to proper payment and under strict observation. The employers asked for help from the authorities… a gang of 35 lead by police liutenant Bruno Jalander was sent to “pacify” the workers of the North. Tens of workers were arrested, around twenty involved in opening the food shops were sentenced for robbery and blasphemy[sic] to varying prison sentences.”
(Lehen, pp. 11-12)

 
The Workers’ Party

“The success that the workers’ party gained already in its first parliament elections showed clearly that the party had not only gained the uninamous support of the industrial workers, but it had also won a large amount of votes from among the rural population. A contributing factor was that the workers themselves had close contacts to the countryside and the rural poor. Members of the working class were generally speaking young people, only recently left from the countryside to the cities. The poor position of the rural population also naturally brought it close to the working class movement to seek support from it.” (Lehen, p.15)

“The experiences gained in these labour struggles explain at least in part the often pointed out fact that the Finnish working class movement was already early on very interested in struggle for state power, while trade union organizing lagged behind the political struggle for many years. The independent Finnish workers’ party founded in 1899 had to for several years also perform the duties of a central trade union organization, especially during large strikes because the Finnish Trade Union Federation was founded only in 1907.

The active involvement of the state authorities, the police, court system and state church into the disputes between workers and capitalists always on the side of the capitalists, gave rise to anger by the workers towards the reactionary state authority. The close connection of the Finnish representatives of that state apparatus to the Russian tsarist ruling class, whose repressive actions always first and foremost targeted the workers and their organizations, makes it easy to understand why workers had such an exemplary role to play in the indipendence struggle…” (Lehen, p 13)

“The rapid rise of the independent Finnish political workers’ movement culminated in the December 1905 general strike, a mass action of unprecendented size for equal municipal suffrage and to destroy the old feudal system that had resisted all social progress.” (Lehen, pp. 13-14)

 

The Tenant Farmers

“The most important social grouping were the tenant farmers, who cultivated the land they rented from the nobles, large landowners and capitalist corporations. In the relations between tenant farmers and landowners the essential question was that of terms of rent. In individual cases, such as when tenants would rent land from relatives, the terms could be quite tolerable… The general picture however was something different: a relationship of extreme exploitation and oppression where the position of the tenant was similar to that of a medieval serf. The rent payment in the form of a work-tax i.e. working on the landowner’s land weighed heavily on the tenants. The payment was not merely a reasonable or justifiable compensation for the use of land, but ruthless exploitation…” (Lehen, p.16)

The landlords would often cheat the peasants in rent terms. Most of the time there were no actual written contracts but rent was decided simply in verbal agreement. And of course most of the peasantry were illiterate.
“Another important grievance in the life of the tenants was the uncertainty of their situation. The terms of the rent were usually decided in oral agreement between the two parties. In the cases where written contracts were made, they were always vague and up for interpretation, and it didn’t benefit the tenant to appeal to the legal authorities since it was obvious that “law and justice” were on the side of the aristocrats, corporations and landowners. The violent and ruthless mass eviction of the tenant farmers of the Laukko manor house by the armed force of the “legal authorities” in May 1907 is an illustrative example of how the society of that time saw it as the noble lord’s sacred right, to treat his subjects how ever inhumanly as he saw fit.” (Lehen, p.16)

“The broken down doors and hearths of the cottages of the manors’ tenants, served as a metaphor for the dead end that the oppressed classes found themselves in: they had to do something to improve their lives, yet their attempts were met with even worse suffering.”
(Y. Kallinen, Hälinää ja hiljaisuutta, p. 26)

A common practice by the landlords was to let a tenant family move to an area where the land was of poor quality (this could be e.g. a bog, a swamp or forest) then let the peasant family improve the land (drain the swamp, chop down the trees etc.) so they could turn it into a farm. Then after the rent contract ran out, the landlord would evict the peasant and thus acquire the newly created good quality farm land for themselves. The peasant family would then be forced to move to another bad piece of land and repeat the process.

“For the tenant farmers the threat of eviction was always there, and it was an effective method of blackmail. It was used especially when the landowner wished to acquire a piece of land which the tenant had through their productive labour turned from a wasteland to fertile farmland.” (Lehen, p.17)

“…I met several tenant farmers who had been evicted, often even multiple times and each time had had to once again clear a new farming plot into a thicket or a bog on the property of the same landowner… I met an old man who had sat years in jail for resisting the crown’s police when they came to evict him for the third time… It was clear that people in this position were eager to hear and accept the socialist teachings, as it gave them an explanation about their own societal position and a path to follow towards liberation”
(M. Ampuja, Pajasta parlamenttiin, Turku 1947, p.73)

“… the pitiless violence the landowners had to use against their tenants was a sign of the rising class consciousness of the tenant farmers, who due to circumstance could only see the socialist movement as the strongest defender of their rights.” (Lehen, p.17)

“In those days, the tenant farmers of Finland had begun to follow the example of the industrial proletarians and had started mass organizing for their rights. In various parts of the country there were mass meetings, also strikes, the demands of which were mainly protections against evictions and against the arbitrary and absolute power of the landowners. The Workers’ Party gave its immediate support to the demands of the tenant farmers and other rural poor. It also helped them to organize their struggle. The Party leadership played an importan part in helping to organize the first nationwide congress of tenant farmers’ deputees in Tampere in 1906. The fact that 50.000-60.000 tenants out of a total of hundred thousand had representatives in this meeting was a clear sign of the desire of the farmers to fight side by side with the workers.” (Lehen, p.18)

 
Servants and Farm Workers: The Rural Proletariat

“The societal situation of [the house servants and farmhands] was even more oppressed and precarious then that of the tenant farmers.” (Lehen, p.18)

“Servants, who lived in spare rooms of houses [of their employer] or in cottages under severe surveillance… were not allowed to leave the house without the permission of their master, or to talk to outsiders. As the status of tenant farmers has often been compared to that of serfs or semi-slaves, that of the servants could rightly be compared to full blown slavery… An 1865 servant law which was only taken off the law books in 1920… gave the master of the servant the right to the most petty kind of spying, ruthless exploitation, inhuman treatment and even physical violence. The servant was not allowed to own a locked chest or a bag, all their belongings had to be visible for inspection by their master. The length of the working day was unlimited. Unlike the old slave owners, the master was not allowed to kill their servant, but he was allowed to hit them. According to the 3. article of the servant law, the master was allowed to physically punish female servants under 13 and male servants under 18 if they didn’t adequately fulfill the tasks their master thought “reasonable”, which according to Miina Sillanpää [a servant] meant 24 hour working days. In the case of the servants, the slavery was not lifelong, but instead was decided in year long contracts on the so-called “hiring markets.” However that year would in most cases turn out to be unbearably hard.” (Lehen, p.20)

“…Often the servant, when deciding upon the terms of the contract, is given entirely false information about the type and amount of the work. The servant is often promised more pay then he ends up getting. And as the contracts are usually made without any wittnesses, how is the servant to prove that he was promised more? The wage is entirely vague and arbitrary, and the servant lives with his master so he has to devote all of his time to working. Speaking about overtime pay is entirely out of the question. The servant can’t say he is working overtime, even if he works 24 hours per day, since the length of his work day is not limited in any way.”  (Minutes of the 6th congress of Finnish servants)


“Servants depended on their master for food. Even in the best cases nutrition was very basic… It was very common that even in those cases where the servants were allowed to eat in the same table as the master’s family, they sat in that part of the table prepared for the house staff and ate worse food.” (Lehen, p.21)

“Living conditions of the servants were below any reasonable standards” (Lehen, p.22)

“The condition of the rural servants is pathetic. The biggest outrage being the living conditions of the house staffs. This is most evident in Southern Ostrobothnia… part of the population lives in the most unhealthy conditions. It seems incredibly that even in winter people are forced to live in rooms which don’t protect from the cold, and contain no heating, not to even speak about the lack of all basic comforts. Therefore it is not uncommon that after a night of wind and snowfall the servent wakes up to find snow on his bed. However these living quarters are not all uplighting to the human soul during the summer either. Typically they have no windows, only a trap-door. Often they are built next to the manure storage, on top of store rooms were all sorts of gargage is held, and where dust and bad smelling air seeps through the loose floor boards… Living in these poor conditions brought an inevitable co-inhabitant – pneumonia, that horror of the poor, which rages among the servant class” (Minutes of the 5th congress of Finnish servants)


The Working Class Movement Before the Revolution

“…[I]n the summer of 1917 Finland was met with another hardship, unprecendented unemployment… the unemployed constituted the most restless element of the population: after losing their livelyhoods they began demanding work and aid. The workers understood that no improvement could be gained without an active struggle. Success depended on unity and organization… the Social-Democratic Party had 70,000 members in 1916, but in the third quarter of 1917 it exceeded 100,000 members. The membership of the finnish trade union federation increased four times over from 41,800 to 160,695. The tenant farmers’ union had 2000 members in May 1917 but at the end of the year membership had risen to 9000 and by February 1918 it was 12,000. The farm laborers who previously had been very badly organized… began to create their own unions and in mid August of 1917 there were already 70 of these organizations. The finnish farm laborers’ union was founded at the end of August in a meeting in Tampere.”
(Holodkovski, pp.18-19)

“…on 26. of March [1917] a strike broke out in Helsinki demanding an 8-hour working day. The same demand was presented as their primary goal by the strikes in April. The 8-hour work day was first implemented in the senate printing press, state railways and fortification construction works. Metal workers won the 8-hour working day on the 18. of April through a one day strike of 30,000 workers accross the country. The strikers’ demands were supported in Helsinki by Russian soldiers, sailors and workers who joined the Finnish workers. The demonstrators surrounded the building where the representatives of the workers were negotiating with the capitalists… The farm laborers continued to fight for the 8-hour working day and the struggle against the landowners’ resistance was often fierce… the farm laborer strikes broke out typically without agreement with the trade union federation… Most often the strikes occurred during the busiest farming seasons – during sowing and harvesting. Tensions tan the highest precisely during farm laborer’s strikes… the workers stopped working and prevented the landowners from bringing their relatives to work on the field… There were times when the large landowners refused to make any kinds of concessions. The owners of the large Westermarck farm declared before the beginning of the farm laborers’ strike, that they will sell or butcher every single one of their 700 cows. In the vicinity of Pori, one landowner left the grain unharvested and appointed White Guard soldiers to guard the field so nobody could harvest it. The workers of the nearby village turned to the Russian soldiers for help. The soldiers fired a few shots with a cannon towards the direction of the farm and the opponent was forced to surrender. Though the information is incomplete, we know that in 1917 there were at least 78 farm laborer strikes on 1949 farms, and they included 16 167 persons. Eleven of the strikes also included tenant farmers, though they were bound by their rent contracts, according to which they could be punished for participating in a strike. Altogether there was a total of 478 strikes in 1917, involving 150 000 workers… Other extraparliamentary activity by the workers also increased. Some declarations or actions by the workers, without the approval of the Social-Democratic Party, demonstrated a spontaneous shift towards revolutionary tactics, already before the Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia…” (Holodkovski, pp.23-24)

“The primary targets of these extraparliamentary actions, were the local government organs, which were in the hands of the rich… Getting working class representation in the municipal organs was not a matter of principle for the workers, it had a purely practical meaning, especially in those hard times. Destitution forced the workers to hasten the solving of this question. Typically the workers presented a demand to the municipal council that the council needed to also include working class representatives. Then they surrounded the building and refused to let the council leave until the demand was satisfied.” (Holodkovski, p.24)

“Municipal elections still used the ancient system, according to which the poor had no right to vote, but the rich depending on their wealth and property could have several votes.” (Holodkovski, p.16)

“The social-democratic municipal organization of Rauma demanded on the 5. of May that half of the seats in the munical council had to be given to the workers. In support of this demand a general strike broke out in the city on the 7. of May. It lasted for 15 days and ended in the victory of the workers. In Turku, a general strike broke out in 29. of May, demonstrators surrounding the city council building and demanding 25 seats for the workers. The newspaper The Worker wrote that if the shock troops the bourgeoisie had assembled tried to rescue the council then the Russian soldiers on the side of the demonstrators would open fire. Later it was told in the communist press that the shock troopers had been captured by the demonstrators… Members of the council were released on June 1. The demand of the workers was fulfilled. Similar incidents took place in Pori as well as other towns and villages.

The parliament also became a target for mass action. On 14. of July when the parliament was discussing the 8-hour working day as well as the municipal election reform, a crowd of several thousands surrounded the parliament… A committee of the demonstrators presented a statement to the parliament in support of accepting the reforms. The parliament was forced to agree… The bourgeois deputees in the parliament were afraid that unless the reforms were signed, there would be serious confrontations because the population was at a boiling point… However the reforms were never implemented because the Russian Provisional Government disbanded the Finnish parliament.” (Holodkovski, pp. 25-26)

 

The Peasantry’s Demand For Land Reform

“Out of all households with one or more hectares of land, 41.4% were renting, and most of them were tenant farmers… Most tenants had only a small piece of land… out of 96 167 tenant farms… only 1.4% had more then 25 hectares. At the same time 60 000 tenants farmed plots smaller then half a hectare. Poor tenant farmers paid their rent to the landowner in money and work done on the landowner’s land… Because the tenant also had to take care of his own farm, his work day during the summer was an average of 15-17 hours… Only 7% of tenants got enough income from their own farm and the rest [93%] had to seek additional income from employment… The status of a tenant farmer was extremely precarious: the tenant had no security about their future, since at the end of their rent contract, they might be evicted and find themselves and their family, homeless with no income…” (Holodkovski, p.13)
The ruling class refused to grant any meaningful land reform, as that would have gone against the interests of the landowners. They saw the situation was disastrous and peasant revolt inevitable, but in order to not go against the landowners the government opted for a compromise and tried to post-pone the land reform issue as far into the future as possible.

“When in 1908 the time approached when the tenant contracts would run out, the question of new contracts was not raised, instead the parliament signed a bill which prolonged the old contracts… The Czar approved this bill on the 12. of March 1909. The question was not solved in the five years prior to the first world war. In 1916 62 000 contracts were running out despite being extended in 1909. Huge masses of tenants were under the threat of eviction. To avoid massive internal destabilization that Germany could have benefited from in the war, the Czar issued a decree that the contracts would remain effective for the time being. Thousands of tenants escaped imminent eviction but only for a time. [A conservative politician] emphasized in a speech a few weeks before the Czar’s overthrow that the peasantry is rising up against the landlords, that this desperate group of people is dangerous and if the fire now kindling among them bursts into full flame the results will be terrifying.” (Holodkovski, p.13-14)

“Immediately after the fall of Czardom… the social-democrats suggested that in the Provisional Government’s manifesto be included that poor tenants won’t be evicted and are given control of the land they farm. This way the tenants could have been appeased. But the Russian Provisional Government pointed out the negative attitude towards land-reform, of the Finnish bourgeois parties and therefore declined the social-democrat’s proposal.” (Holodkovski, p.14)

“The short sighted and selfish policy of the bourgeoisie had prevented the tenant farmer question being solved by any legal means. Now the tenants had joined with the farm workers in strikes, and became like them targets of retaliatory actions… The finnish working class movement fought on the side of the rural poor, landless, tenant farmers and farm workers and guided these forces to action. The demands of these groups had been stated countless times and the bourgeoisie had not solved the issue. These problems absolutely had to be dealt with. From this foundation, the working class movement developed its demand for the liberation of the tenant farmers and raised them up to join the struggle.” (Hyvönen, pp.89-90)
The bourgeoisie could have solved the tenant question at any time, but when ever anyone tried to fix this crying social crisis, the capitalists prevented it. This way, they made peasant rebellion absolutely inevitable. They made the lives of the tenant farmers, poor peasants and farm workers so unbearable that they were bound to rise up in rebellion.

“The social-democratic parliamentary group proposed on 27. of March a bill for the liberation of the tenant farmers and farm workers…Some social-democratic speakers emphasized the extreme urgency … of this bill because in many localities tenant strikes were already breaking out, and unless the matter was solved the tenants would be pushed to the path of revolution… The bill was defeated with 98 bourgeois votes against 95 socialists.” (Holodkovski, p.136)

“Tenant farmers held rallies all throughout the country and declared that unless they were liberated by the parliament, they would liberate themselves. The tenants’ meetings accepted proposals to cease paying any more rent. For instance on 16. of march 1917 in Sankajärvi the tenants decided to not pay rent unless the bill was passed by the parliament. The tenant farmers of Lapusala demanded on the 3. of December that the social-democratic parliamentary group must take urgent action to liberate the tenants from the centuries old yoke… The final decision of the meeting proclaimed that unless the parliament freed them they would take revolutionary action, general strike and stop of all rent payments. Tenant farmers and farm workers of Kodisjoki demanded on january 6. of 1918 that they must be liberated and all land nationalized. They proposed that each peasant could thus rent on fair terms from the state…” (Holodkovski, pp.136-137)

Count Von Der Goltz, German General who later invaded Finland to crush the socialist revolution, said:

“The ground was fertile for revolution, and not just in the industrial centers but also in the countryside where the peasants were mainly tenants and not owners. As in ancient Rome the rent system caused great dissatisfaction in the countryside and caused even the hard-working and loyal… finnish peasants to be possessed by the … teachings of Russian communism… to become Bolsheviks.” (Graf von der Goltz, Als politischer General im Osten (Finnland und Baltikum) 1918 und 1919)
The reasons that led to the revolution can be summed up as follows: decades and centuries old forms of oppression, horrible working conditions, working days as long as 10-17 hours or even sometimes 24 hours, merciless exploitation and since there were no effective legal ways of making change and solving these problems, the masses were inevitably pushed towards revolution. The municipal elections were entirely undemocratic and in the parliament the capitalist politicians prevented any reforms from being passed. However, there was one even more immediate factor contributing to the revolutionary sentiments: starvation.

The Food Crisis

“At the end of 1917 it can be said that hunger had arrived in Finland… sugar rationing had already been implemented in December 1916 and at the beginning of 1917 rationing was introduced in larger population centers for butter, milk and meat” (Koskinen, p.16)

“Because no strong measures were taken to prevent black market speculation, prices increased to the degree that workers could no longer afford them…” (Holodkovski, p.134)

“…[F]ood was distributed with ration cards, but the food rationing system couldn’t work adequately unless the large food stores of rich persons and capitalist corporations were confiscated. However the government did not heed the demands of the workers as it would have contradicted the interests of propertied classes…” (Holodkovski, p.133)

“The economic situation of the working class had become intolerable. Since the earliest years of the world war, wages had fallen behind the ever increasing prices of foodstuffs… The people could not be given even reduced food rations and the workers and employees could not afford the black market prices. In autumn unemployment also began to increase threateningly. The working class suffered from widespread hunger. The rural poor also fell victim to it.” (Hyvönen, p.87)

“How widespread the hunger was can be seen for example in the notices posted in newspapers by the government food distribution body. A notice for December 1917 states the following:

“As is well known, in all cities, including their suburbs and rural regions whose populations are largely industrial workers or farming is not developed, have already since september been on the brink of famine. There have been two or three week periods when it hasn’t been possible to distribute grain. Thus the continuing and spread of famine threaten the entire country… 800,000 Finnish citizens already suffer from shortage of grain…”

A notice published on the 17. of January 1918 states:
“The number of regions, not only in towns but also in the countryside, suffering from shortage of bread only increases and in some areas it has gotten so bad that, according to the information given by food distribution committees, hunger has caused weakness and deaths.”” (Hyvönen, p.88)
“The food distribution board published in December 1917 that 800.000 Finnish citizens (one quarter of the population!) suffered from a shortage of bread, despite the fact that bread was already being made with flour that had flax, potato skins, lichen or tree bark etc. mixed in with the grain… sometimes people would lose consciousness due to malnutrition… six hungry students of a girl school had fainted during the morning prayer. The food board stated on January 17. 1918 that hunger had caused deaths in towns as well as rural areas. The food board received desperate letters and telegrams from various municipalities begging for help…

From Veteli: Bread grain for one week only, after that even the rye seeds have been eaten…
From Lapland: At the end of the week our stores will be empty, we request urgent action.
From Haukiputaa: People relying on rations have been without food for a week, will die soon unless we get flour.
From Raivola: We ask that you send us any type of food grain so we can distribute something to consumers.
From Pyhäjärvi: We request most humbly, that we could get even a small amount of food grain

The position of the food board became intolerable and on 24. of January its chairman… and [several] members resigned…” (Holodkovski, pp.134-135)

“The lack of food forced the working class to take determined action. On 19. of January the Red Guard of Vyborg began house searches of the bourgeois for food and weapons. The discoveries were bigger then expected. While the working class suffered from hunger, even died from hunger it turned out that the bourgeoisie had large flour, sugar, rice and meat stores as well as basements full of alcoholic drinks, despite the fact that liquor was illegal in Finland. Some bourgeois didn’t even know what ration cards were. The committees created by the workers acted in a revolutionary manner: they confiscated the excess food they found and distributed it to the starving.” (Holodkovski, p.135)

“[T]he so-called butter riots… began when the government temporarily stopped the distribution of butter rations. In Turku on 9. of August a crowd inspected food storages and after finding both butter and cheese (which was already starting to go bad) began to distribute the food in return for ration cards. The next day a mass meeting in Turku demanded that the parliament has to confiscate all food storages, ban the exporting of food (food was being exported to be sold in Petrograd where prices were even higher)… The population demanded that all food storages be taken under the control of the municipal government organs. Also in Helsinki the butter storages were inspected by demonstrators and the distribution of butter according to price controls was begun.”(Holodkovski, p.26)

“At night on the 14. of August the municipal employees of Helsinki began a general strike. They demanded the safeguarding of people, especially children and the elderly from hunger and starvation. The senate did not take any action. On 21. of October a delegation of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation issued a statement regarding the food question. It demanded making a careful inventory of all food stores, confiscation of illegal food storages, the handing over to the control of the state and municipal authorities of the most essential food items, giving full authority to the food distribution bodies in distribution and regulation of price controls, the handing of unused farm land to the state and municipalities and increasing of wages due to increased food prices… the declaration didn’t lead to any action [by the government].” (Holodkovski, p.39)

“The 4th Congress of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation met on December 12 [1917]. It pointed out that the conditions of the workers were so hopeless and unbearable, that unless the congress is ready to make radical decisions, the workers will take matters into their own hands. The food question was top most in importance… Many… deputees saw revolution as the only thing that could save the workers from starvation. Deputee Hakkinen said that unless the working class rises up to fight they will all starve to death… Deputee Pyttynen said that in Ostrobothnia the workers were eagerly waiting for the decisions of the congress and were willing to die in order to put them into effect… The deputee from Tampere said that workers of the city have decided to either win or die. Deputee Lampinen said that in many localities the workers have already began to take action, because it is better to die in battle then to do nothing and die of hunger…” (Holodkovski, p.51)

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota
Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa: Lohja 1917-18
Viktor Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918
Graf von der Goltz, As political general in the east (Finland and the Baltics) 1918-1919
Y. Kallinen, Hälinää ja Hiljaisuutta
M. Ampuja, Pajasta Parlamenttiin
Antti Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-18
Antti Hyvönen, Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue 1918-24
Antti Hyvönen, Suomen vanhan työväenpuolueen historia
Otto Kuusinen, “The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism”

(*1910 figures which were not much different from 1917. Holodkovski, p.13)

Finnish sources have been translated to English by MLT

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The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 1: Finnish Independence

In 1917 Finland was part of the Russian empire. Finland was a protectorate of Russia, meaning it didn’t have a military of its own, had no independent foreign policy or economic policy and was ruled by a Russian governor general.

However in the 1905-06 revolution Finland had gained itself some limited democratic rights and some nominal autonomy, its own parliament and senate although they were still under the power of Russia.

It had been recognized by progressive elements for at least a century that Finland had developed into a nation of its own and deserved independence. The Finnish people had their own language, culture and history. There was also the push for more democratic rights and the struggle against monarchist absolutism. The 1905-06 uprisings and demonstrations were a prime example of this.

Although some Finnish capitalists and especially small owners supported independence, as time went on it was more and more the working class movement that led the independence struggle. The capitalist class and nobility of Finland were happy to work with the Russian Tsar and relied on the Tsarist state to crack down on striking workers and poor peasants wanting better working conditions, higher wages and more democratic rights.

The very early Finnish independence movement had been pioneered by bourgeois and petit-bourgeois intellectuals, but in the early 1900s the Finnish capitalist class became more and more opposed to Finnish independence. Leading the independence struggle fell almost exclusively to the proletarians and semi-proletarians.

The February Revolution

After the Tsar was overthrown in February 1917 the Finnish Capitalists allied themselves closely with the Russian provisional government led by Kerensky.

“None of the ruling bourgeois groupings took a pro-independence stance. The Russian provisional government took upon itself the role of the inheritor and continuer of the Tsar-grand duke’s power. It was able to do this with the favorable help of the finnish bourgeoisie.” (Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-18, p.14)

 
“The legal government… the bourgeois considered to mean the Russian Provisional Government whose legitimacy the Socialists did not recognize.” (Hyvönen, p.19)

 

The Bolshevik Attitude Towards Finnish Independence

“The Russian Bolsheviks completely supported Finland’s demands for self-determination.” (Hyvönen, s.22)

“I must declare most categorically that we would not be democrats (I say nothing of socialism!) if we did not recognize the right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination. I declare that we would be betraying socialism if we did not do everything to restore fraternal confidence between the workers of Finland and Russia. But everyone knows that the restoration of this confidence is inconceivable unless the right of the Finnish people to free self-determination is firmly recognized. And it is not merely the verbal, even if official, recognition of this right that is important here. What is important is that this verbal recognition will be confirmed by the act of the Council of People’s Commissars, that it will be put into effect without hesitation. For the time for words has passed. The time has come when the old slogan “Workers of all countries, unite!” must be put into effect.

Complete freedom for the Finnish people, and for the other peoples of Russia, to arrange their own life! A voluntary and honest alliance of the Finnish people with the Russian people! No tutelage, no supervision from above, over the Finnish people! These are the guiding principles of the policy of the Council of People’s Commissars.”
~STALIN (Speech delivered at the Congress of the Finnish Social-Democratic Labour Party, Helsingfors Nov. 14, 1917)

 

The Power Act

“In the elections of 1916 socialists gained a majority in the parliament, 103 seats”(Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa: Lohja 1917-18 pp. 14-15)

After the socialists achieved an electoral victory and a majority in the parliament in the 1916 elections they managed to pass the so-called “Power Act” (Valtalaki). This was a bill that declared the finnish parliament independent and sovereign from Russian involvement. That the finnish parliament was the highest authority of Finland. Effectively, this was a declaration of Finnish independence. Before, Finland had been a protectorate of Russia meaning that it had its own parliament and government but these were totally subservient to Russia and all their decisions would have to be approved by Russia. The Power Act declared that Russia no longer had power over Finland and therefore would have made Finland independent.

The capitalist class of Finland instantly opposed this bill. The bill was passed because the socialists had a majority in the parliament but it was never implemented because of’obstructionism by the right-wing bourgeoisie.

“Bourgeois parties refused all struggles in favor of implementing the Power Act – and therefore also any struggles in favor of Finnish self-determination. Afraid of being left alone, without outside help to face the Finnish working class and rural poor the Finnish bourgeoisie threw themselves into the arms of the Russian Provisional Government and abandoned the Power Act, which represented the wishes of the Finnish people for independence and democracy, and which the parliament had accepted.”
(Hyvönen, pp.32-33)


The congress of the social-democratic party stated:
“Finnish social-democracy therefore demands… the independence of the Finnish people and state. The Finnish working class can only pursue unhindered class struggle inside a sovereign country.” (Hyvönen, p.33)

“Bolshevik representative Aleksandra Kollontai who was present at the congress stated:
“And we support the granting of independence to Finland, all the way to the right of secession from Russia.”

At that time the bolsheviks were not among the ruling parties in Russia. The bolsheviks could put forward their demands only in their own press and the congress of the soviets.” (Hyvönen, p.33)

“In Russia the bolshevik party was the only political grouping that supported the self-determination of Finland as well as other nationalities. Starting from the marxist principle of national self-determination and developing it to the policy of recognizing the independence of national states and applying it to practice Lenin and Stalin made it clear they defended Finland’s right to independence and opposed the imperialist policy of the Provisional Government as it opposed Finnish independence. The April conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) accepted Lenin’s proposal regarding the National Question which states:

“The right of all the nations forming part of Russia freely to secede and form independent states must be recognised. To deny them this right, or to fail to take measures guaranteeing its practical realisation, is equivalent to supporting a policy of seizure or annexation. Only the recognition by the proletariat of the right of nations to secede can ensure complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations and help to bring the nations closer together on truly democratic lines.”” (Hyvönen, s.20) (7th bolshevik conference, Resolution on the National Question)

“The declaration also concretely put emphasis on the Finnish question in the following way:

“The conflict which has arisen at the present time between Finland and the Russian Provisional Government strikingly demonstrates that denial of the right to free secession leads to a direct continuation of the policy of tsarism.”” (Hyvönen, s.21) (Ibid.)


The Finnish Parliament Elections of 1917

The Russian Provisional government was not happy with the Socialists having a majority in the Finnish parliament and pushing for independence and therefore ordered new elections in October 1. 1917.

The Finnish capitalist class supported the Russian Provisional Government and opposed independence. Bolsheviks and Finnish Socialists supported independence

The Russian provisional government took upon itself the role of the inheritor and continuer of the Tsar-grand duke’s power. It was able to do this with the favorable help of the finnish bourgeoisie.” (Hyvönen, s.14)

The Finnish capitalists were not opposed to independence in principle but they still saw the Russian capitalist government as an ally just as they had seen the Tsarist government as an ally. They needed the oppressive state apparatus of Russia in order to keep the Finnish workers under control. The Finnish capitalists wanted to insure that none of the demands of the workers would be accepted. Demands like work safety regulations, the 8 hour work day, better pay, equal municipal elections, land reform and better rights for agricultural workers who were at the mercy of the aristocracy and lived in practical feudalism. For this reason the Finnish capitalists were willing to ally with Kerensky and the Russian government instead of supporting Finnish independence.

The Capitalists still wanted to increase their own power compared to Russia. They wanted Finland to keep its nominal autonomy and perhaps expand it. Finland as a Russian protectorate could decide some local questions via its own parliament and senate while Russia still controlled foreign policy, the military, economic policy, trade etc.

If Finland became truly independent the capitalists would have to face the Finnish workers and poor peasants on their own. This is something that they definitely did not want to happen.

One of the Finnish socialist leaders, Otto Wille Kuusinen elaborated the Finnish working class movement’s stance on independence in the following way:
“We cannot grant the Russian government the right to verify Finnish laws, because that way even the most vital reforms that have been decided by our parliament could simply be rejected in Petrograd, to the help and satisfaction of the reactionary bourgeoisie of Finland, as has happened many times before.
We cannot grant the Russian government the right to dissolve the Finnish parliament or decide the duration of the Diet. And it is not right that the Russian government could prevent the expansion of the rights of the Finnish parliament or the further democratization of our state which the interests of the working class demand.
The Russian Government does not have the right in any way to be considered the highest state authority of Finland, instead Finland has its own parliament, its own government, responsible to its parliament and people.
Therefore opposed to the demand of national subjugation put forth by the Russian bourgeosie, Finnish social-democracy puts forth the demand of the independence of the Finnish people. For only in a sovereign land can the Finnish working class without hindrance pursue its class struggle, protect its gains and successfully do its part in the movement for international emancipation of labor.

We want freedom, so that a road would be opened for the people to choose their own destiny and a freedom for the working class to engage in class struggle with a chance to achieve victories without interference from a foreign power.”” (Hyvönen, s.24)
“Kuusinen continued:

“The Finnish poor do not hate our brother nation Russia, it hates the agitators of national hatred. Finland’s rightful role is to be an independent republic, free next to a free Russia. In economic relations the Finnish people would not attempt to isolate themselves from Russia or to disrupt the interests of Russia. The economic relations of Finland with Russia as with all other countries should be organized based on voluntary agreement, no longer only based on the wishes of the Russian bourgeoisie with the force of subjugation. Otherwise the conflict between Finland and Russia will not end. And Finnish social-democracy wishes this conflict to end, and the formation of mutually beneficial relations for our peoples.” (Minutes of the 9. Congress of the Finnish Social-Democratic Party p.101)” (Hyvönen, s.25)

“The view advocated by Kuusinen represented that proletarian view which had matured during the fight for suffrage according to which the proletariat had to fight against the oppressors both at home and abroad and that those struggles supported one another, and that all questions including the status of the Finnish nation could only be solved through the demands necessitated by class struggle. Kuusinen’s proposal got the absolute majority in the party Congress. While the Congresses of the bourgeois parties refused to accept the demand for independence the Finnish working class made it their concrete goal. While the bourgeois parties strived for collaboration with the Russian Provisional Government and the capitalists in it, the independence struggle of the Finnish working class ended up being pushed closer to the Bolsheviks who advocated National Self-Determination.” (Hyvönen, s.25)

“Apart from the social-democrats few representatives of the Young Finnish Party and the Agrarian League also voted in favor of the Power Act. Therefore the passing of the Power Act meant that the most principled supporters of independence were brought closer together. However on the 31. of July the Provisional Government dissolved the Finnish Parliament and called for new elections as punishment for the passing of the Power Act, which would have meant complete independence for Finland in internal affairs. The dissolving of the parliament served to further alienate the social-democrats and bourgeois from each other in parliamentary politics.”
(Holodkovski s.35)

 
“After the Finnish Parliament was dissolved by the Provisional Government with the help of the bourgeois senators new elections were arranged for October 1. and 2. The bourgeois parties absolutely refused to join with the socialists in their attempt to defend Finnish sovereignty, to continue the work of the parliament that had illegally been dissolved and instead declared that this attempt [to protect the parliament] was illegal. The bourgeois instead put all their forces into the new elections. The social-democratic party decided to participate in the elections but at the same time explained that the new elections were illegitimate and defended the legitimacy of the dissolved parliament. The election struggle became fierce. Bourgeois parties allied with each other in a coalition “against the red danger”. The bourgeois coalition achieved 108 seats against the 92 working class representatives. This was despite the fact that the amount of votes for the social-democrats increased from 370,000 to 450,000. The votes for the bourgeois also increased and since they were now all in one coalition none of their votes were wasted as had happened previously.” (Hyvönen, s.49)

 
The last bourgeois plot against independence

“After the elections, before the meeting of the new government, the bourgeoisie still continued to negotiate with the Russian governor general who represented the already almost dead Provisional Government. As a result of these negotiations the governor general left for Petrograd to deliver a joint manifesto of the Finnish bourgeois parties that they wanted the Provisional Government to present at the meeting of the new Finnish government. In the manifesto the Provisional Government was supposed to “give up its power over the Finnish state with the exception that foreign affairs would still be handled through Russia like they have been up to now and that Finland will not make any changes to its military policy or laws relating to the Russian state or Russian citizens inside Finland without the consent of the Russian government” . . .

 
This example of bourgeois politics ended up not being implemented because the life of the Russian Provisional Government came to an end before the emissary of the Finnish bourgeosie arrived in Petrograd. A Soviet Government had emerged in Russia as a result of a working class revolution. This maneuver of the Finnish bourgeoisie meant denying that basic principle of the Power Act which had declared the Finnish parliament to be the highest legal authority in Finland. The bourgeosie wanted to create an executive power outside the authority of the parliament elected by the people. At the same time, with its own manifesto, it wanted to nullify the Power Act despite the fact that when passing the Power Act the Finnish parliament had precisely decided to refuse the Russian Government any right to verify or block Finnish laws. This was a matter concerning the highest legal authority of the country. The Finnish bourgeoisie wanted to change the form of government of Finland. From a legal standpoint this maneuver was a coup. The kind of change in form of government that was described in the bourgeos manifesto could of course only have been carried out by changing the constitution through a decision of the parliament. However in its current composition the parliament would never have accepted such a decision, afterall half of the seats belonged to the socialists.” (Hyvönen, s.52-53)

The bourgeoisie could not have achieved this plan legally or democratically. Hence they attempted to scheme together with the Russian Provisional Government. To insure that Finland does not become independent but retains its status as a protectorate of capitalist Russia and that the Russian capitalist state insures the rule of the Finnish capitalists over the Finnish workers.

“The Great October Revolution in Russia ruined the plans of the bourgeoisie. The attempt to create an executive power entirely separate from the parliement failed. A soviet government had been formed in Russia whose representatives would never have supported the Finnish bourgeoisie’s dictatorship.” (Hyvönen, s.56)

 

Why did the Finnish capitalists finally accept independence?


So why did the Finnish capitalists accept independence after resisting it for so long? They did so because after the October Revolution Russia was no longer their ally. Instead Russia was now the ally of the Finnish working class. And therefore the Finnish capitalists requested independence from Russia which the Bolsheviks granted. The Socialists who had always advocated independence also supported Finland’s secession from Russia. The only difference being that the Socialists still wanted to maintain friendly relations to Russia while the capitalists tightened their collaboration with Russia’s enemy, Germany.

 

Finland is granted independence by the Bolsheviks

“The other day representatives of Finland applied to us with a demand for immediate recognition of Finland’s complete independence and endorsement of its secession from Russia. The Council of People’s Commissars resolved to give its consent and to issue a decree, which has already been published in the newspapers, proclaiming Finland’s complete independence.

Here is the text of the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars:

“In response to the application of the Finnish Government for recognition of the independence of the Finnish Republic, the Council of People’s Commissars, in full conformity with the principle of the right of nations to self-determination, resolves to recommend to the Central Executive Committee: a) to recognize the state independence of the Finnish Republic, and b) to set up, in agreement with the Finnish Government, a special commission (composed of representatives of both sides) to elaborate the practical measures necessitated by the secession of Finland from Russia.”
Naturally, the Council of People’s Commissars could not act otherwise, for if a nation, through its representatives, demands recognition of its independence, a proletarian government, acting on the principle of granting the peoples the right to self-determination, must give its consent…

The Council of People’s Commissars may be abused, may be criticized, but no one can assert that it does not carry out its promises; for there is no force on earth that can compel the Council of People’s Commissars to break its promises. This we have demonstrated by the absolute impartiality with which we accepted the demand of the Finnish bourgeoisie that Finland be granted independence, and by proceeding at once to issue a decree proclaiming the independence of Finland.

May the independence of Finland help the emancipation of the Finnish workers and peasants and create a firm basis for friendship between our peoples.”

~STALIN (The Independence of Finland: Speech to the Russian Central Executive Committee Dec. 22, 1917)

 
SOURCES:

Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota

Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa: Lohja 1917-18

Antti Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-18

Viktor Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918

Antti Hyvönen, Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue 1918-24

Antti Hyvönen, Suomen vanhan työväenpuolueen historia

Otto Kuusinen, “The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism”

Otto Kuusinen, Suomen Työväenliikkeen Opetuksia

Brief History of the October Revolution

The October Revolution is an extremely important event in world history. It was the first successful workers revolution. But how did it all happen? This is a brief overview of the complicated history of the October Revolution.

The Russian Empire was a totalitarian police state ruled by an absolute monarchy. The country was very backward economically and culturally. Average life expectancy in Russia was about 35 years. Only about 20% of the population knew how to read. The workers and peasants lived horrible lives, without the 8 hour working day, minimum wage laws or basic work safety regulations. There were many large strikes and protests but it was not uncommon that the police would shoot at the demonstrations and kill the strikers.

Despite how big the country was, there was a constant shortage of farm land and also constant famine. This is because most land belonged to the wealthy landlords and rich peasants. Because of technological backwardness, only the softest and most fertile soil could be used, this severely limited the amount of available farm land.
In 1898 the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party is created. Among its founders are people like Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov. This was a marxist party, that wanted to overthrow the monarchy and bring about socialism. However during the course of the struggle there is a lot of disagreement about when this goal is to be implemented and how. In 1903 there emerges a split in the party: two factions emerge: the Mensheviks led by Martov and the Bolsheviks led by Lenin.

During the years, although Lenin and many others first anticipated the two groups could merge again, the split ends up worsening and the two factions become separate parties: Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Mensheviks) and Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks).

The main differences between the groups were the following:

1. The Bolsheviks wanted an organizationally united party of serious revolutionaries while the Mensheviks wanted a more loose reformist type party.

2. Both parties agreed that the next course of action was to overthrow the monarchy and carry out the so-called “bourgeois-democratic revolution”. This would make Russia a capitalist parliamentary democracy. However the Mensheviks argued that the class to lead the revolution was the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class. The bourgeois class served this function in the French Revolution. The Bolsheviks disagreed, they thought the capitalists couldn’t be trusted to carry out the democratic revolution, they were weaker then in France, they allied with the monarchy and feared the workers and peasants. In fact, the Bolshevik leader Lenin argued that the Russian proletariat was much stronger and more developed then the French proletariat of the late 1700s and therefore should lead the democratic revolution, and not merely support it.

3. Lastly, the Mensheviks didn’t think Russia was ready for Socialism, in their opinion the workers could never take power in Russia until after a long time of capitalist and parliamentary development. Even though the debate about workers revolution and socialism would only come about fully later, this attitude relates to the Menshevik position that the workers shouldn’t lead the democratic revolution, but only support the capitalist class against the monarchy.

In 1905 there is an attempt at the democratic revolution. There are massive protests all over the country, mutinies in the army and the people organize public meetings called “soviets” or councils, which would get together and discuss what to do. The revolution eventually fails. It won some democratic liberties from the Tsar, but those liberties would be constantly under attack by the monarchy afterwards. This revolution is seen as a dress-rehearsal for the later revolution.

In 1914 World War 1 begins, and launches Russia into chaos. The economy is ruined by the war, there is a shortage of food and large amounts of the population are drafted to fight in the war. The war is seen by many people, especially the socialist, as an unjust imperialist conquest, where millions of poor and working class people from different countries had to die for the profits and wealth of the capitalist and monarchist governments of their countries.

The attitude towards the war ends up splitting the international socialist movement. The so-called “2nd international working men’s association”. Many parties initially opposed the war, but then chose to support their own government in it, to protect their country from the other imperialist powers. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and other revolutionaries saw this as treachery. Surely, if everyone only supports their own imperialist government in an imperialist war, it doesn’t do anything to stop the war. They called for “turning the imperialist war to a class war”, friendship between the workers of the various countries, and unity against the capitalist governments of all warring countries. This led to the splitting of the international.

In February 1917 the Russian monarchy is overthrown. This leads to the creation of the Russian Provisional Government, consisting of the capitalist Cadet party, the Socialist-Revolutionary party or SR and the Mensheviks.

The Bolsheviks initially gave “conditional support” for the Provisional Government, meaning they supported it to the degree that it carried out the democratic reforms and other policies demanded by the population. However it soon became very evident the Provisional Government was a failure.

The Provisional government refused to carry out land-reform. It was necessary to prevent famine and reduce the land shortage, but it would have meant going against the power of the landlords.

The Provisional government also refused to impose stricter regulations on trading and the economy. This would have been necessary to prevent economic disaster, but it would have meant going against the capitalists who greatly profited from the war and the chaos.

Lastly, the Provisional government supported the war. They advocated a “war to a finish”, meaning until they won. It became evident that Russia was losing the war, however the Provisional government was still committed to fulfill the treaties and agreements with their allies in World War 1.

Clearly, supposed democratic government, with a quite a few self-proclaimed socialists in it should act in this way. The Bolsheviks were quick to point out that the Provisional government acts exactly like the Tsarist government, which also sided with the landlords, capitalists and started the imperialist war. The Provisional government was continuing Tsarist policy.

In April 1917, Vladimir Lenin returns to Russia from exile and puts forward his “april theses”, political proposals which call for the overthrow of the Provisional government.

The Bolsheviks put forward their slogans:

“Down with the provisional government”

“Down with the capitalist ministers”

“Factories for the workers, land to the peasants, end to the imperialist war,”

“Peace, Bread & Land”


In June the capital city, Petrograd (now called St. Petersburg) has municipal elections. Bolsheviks achieve a massive victory, growing from essentially nothing to one of the biggest parties. The so-called “defencist bloc” still gets the majority. This bloc consisted of the SR-party and mensheviks. Defencism, meant that they supported the war effort. Biggest loser of the election was the Cadet party, which achieved only 15% of the vote and lost its power as the biggest party.


On July 1
, Russia launches an offensive on the front, this is known as the “kerensky offensive” or the “July offensive.” The war was going badly and casualties were mounting for Russia, the blood-thirstyness of the imperialists and the Provisional government were very evident.

On July 3-4, there is a massive demonstration in Petrograd, of hundreds of thousands of people. Among the demonstrators are armed soldiers who have come from the front to demand change and revolution. The Bolsheviks urge caution and say that the demonstration should be peaceful and organized. They oppose bringing weapons to the demonstration and say that they are not yet strong enough for a revolution. The workers and soldiers decide to bring weapons despite the advice of the Bolsheviks but the Bolsheviks still take part in the demonstrations to lend support to the workers.

The workers and soldiers carry Bolshevik slogans “end the war”, “peace, bread and land”. There is a government crack down against the demonstrators. Machine guns shoot in the crowd, leaving countless dead. The Bolsheviks are now seen as a serious threat by the government. A warrant is issued for Lenin’s arrest, he is forced into hiding. Bolshevik newspaper Pravda is banned, their printing plant and party offices are destroyed. This period of reppression is known as the “July Days”. The Provisional government restores the death penalty on the front, against soldiers who disobey orders.

The Bolsheviks lose a lot of their forces, and many of their important resources. They begin publishing their newspapers under new names to avoid censorship. Despite all their difficulties the workers now support them more then ever, the Provisional government is exposed as a supporter of the capitalist elite and the imperialists. The Provisional government starts forming stronger ties with the old capitalist party, the Cadets to make up for the support they’ve lost from the workers.

In August, there is an attempted coup against the Provisional government, called the “Kornilov Affair”. Kornilov was a Whige Guard general in the Russian army, who wanted to institute military dictatorship and strong rule of law, to stop the chaos in Russia. In other words, complete counter-revolution, end to the demonstrations, end to democracy, end to the working class movement.

The railway workers strike and don’t transport his troops, and the workers and soldiers of Petrograd form armed Red Guard units and take up the defense of Petrograd against Kornilov. Kornilov’s coup ends in failure.
After the overthrow of the monarchy formation of soviets had begun again in all large cities, but for the time being their leadership would be predominantly menshevik.

In September the Bolsheviks gain the majority in the Petrograd Soviet and soon after in the soviets of Moscow and other large cities. The Soviets already carry out many important functions in the cities as the Russian government is incapable of doing so. The Soviets even organized the defense of Petrograd. As the economy is in ruins and the war effort is failing more people turn towards the Soviets.

The 6th Bolshevik party congress had agreed that they should carry out an armed revolution. In October the Petrograd Soviet creates a Military Revolutionary Committee. These special bodies are formed all over the country connected with each soviet in each city. The Menshevik and SR minorities in the soviets opposed revolution, but the SR party splits. The “left-SR” group sides with the Bolsheviks.

The Bolshevik soldiers organization takes over the garrison. On October 24 the Military Revolutionary Committee occupies the telegraph, the telephone and other important buildings. The cruiser Aurora, which is controlled by Bolshevik sailors, fires a shot to signal the beginning of the revolution. The workers and soldiers storm the winter palace. The same evening there is a congress of Soviets, where delegates arrive from all over the country. This congress elects the new Russian government, elected by the soviets of workers and soldiers, the Soviet Government. The October Revolution has taken power.

This would lead to a civil war where the Capitalists try to rescue their power. Where 14 capitalist governments including the USA, Great Britain, France, Japan, Poland and many others invaded Soviet Russia to destroy the Soviet government. But they failed, and the soviet union was created.

The significance of the October Revolution cannot be overstated. It showed that a revolution by the ordinary people is possible. It showed that capitalism in the end, is incapable of solving its internal contradictions. Despite getting moderate leftists into the government, the policy was as imperialist, profit driven and anti-popular as before. The moderate leftists didn’t improve capitalism, they were used by capitalism. Only revolution stopped Russia’s involvement in the World War, carried out land reform and dealt with the crisis of unregulated capitalism, and began the process of building a new economic model which would serve the needs and interests of the people, not profits.

russian-revolution-1917-granger1-840x472

Basic description of Vanguardism & Democratic Centralism

Marxism-Leninism seeks revolution through organizing the working class & its reserve forces into a vanguard which acts as a front line & general staff of the revolution. This can be achieved through democratic centralism which combines the effectiveness of unity & discipline with democracy. Marxism-Leninism rejects loose disunited organizations & movements without leadership. Marxism-Leninism advocates leadership through example & guidance, by the most politically conscious members of the working class. If the party’s policies, tactics and positions are correct it will succeed in rallying support around it and to revolution.

VANGUARDISM


Spontaneity

Some people still idealize spontaneity and spontaneous grassroots movements. But such movements never lead to successful revolution. You need a popular mass movement, but you also need leadership and clear political goals. Without political consciousness these mass movements wither away and die and nothing changes, we’ve seen movements like this come and go a million times. Some people want to limit our movement to aimless protests with no clear goals, no agreement on principles and no organizational unity or capacity to bring change. Spontaneous popular movements that arise are good, but they are not enough. They create an opportunity for the Vanguard to introduce political consciousness, political goals, ideology and leadership.

Revolution is difficult, and anyone who is even remotely serious should realize that spontaneity alone is not enough.

“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”
~LENIN, What Is To Be Done? (Chapter 1)

“…to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology.”
~LENIN, What Is To Be Done? (Chapter 2)

Spontaneous protest actions by the people present an opportunity to build a real revolutionary movement. But some groups, especially anarchists and liberals, romanticize these spontaneous movements like Occupy Wall St. or Black Lives Matter. They think that any clear goals or ideology will ruin a good spontaneous grassroots movement, but this is a mistake. The problem with these movements is precisely that they are only spontaneous without any clear plans to facilitate change, or they are overtaken by liberals who romanticize just such aimless spontaneity.

“There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology,… the fundamental error… bowing to spontaneity… failure to understand that the spontaneity of the masses demands a high degree of consciousness from us… The greater the spontaneous upsurge of the masses… the more widespread the movement, the more rapid, incomparably so, the demand for greater consciousness in the theoretical, political and organisational work…”
~LENIN, What Is To Be Done? (Chapter 2)

“…no revolutionary movement can endure without a stable organization of leaders that maintains continuity… the wider the masses spontaneously drawn into the struggle… the more urgent the need of such an organization, and the more solid this organization must be”
~LENIN, What Is To Be Done? (Chapter 4)
Role of the Party

 

“The Party is the leader, the vanguard of the proletariat”
~LENIN, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin
The vanguard party has a special role. While anyone can join a trade union, or vote in bourgeois elections, only the most active and class-conscious workers join the revolutionary party.

Trade Unions almost exclusively focus on short term economic demandsm, not on long term political demands. Reformist election campaigns focus on trying to fix capitalism, a system that can’t be fixed. But the vanguard party seeks to overthrow the entire capitalist system. It combines economic and political demands, and has the necessary political knowledge to see that the system must be overthrown.

“The Party must regard itself not as an appendage of the parliamentary electoral machinery… and not as a gratuitous supplement to the trade unions… but as the highest form of class association of the proletariat, the function of which is to lead all the other forms of proletarian organisations, from the trade unions to the Party’s group in parliament… The Party, and especially its leading elements, must thoroughly master the revolutionary theory of Marxism, which is inseparably connected with revolutionary practice.”
~STALIN, The Prospects of the Communist Party of Germany and the Question of Bolshevisation
The party consists of the advanced sections of the poor and working people. They are the vanguard.

 

“The Party must be, first of all, the advanced detachment of the working class. The Party must absorb all the best elements of the working class, their experience, their revolutionary spirit, their selfless devotion to the cause of the proletariat. But in order that it may really be the armed detachment, the Party must be armed with revolutionary theory, with a knowledge of the laws of the movement, with a knowledge of the laws of revolution… ”
~STALIN, The Foundations of Leninism (Chapter VIII)

 

The Vanguard can’t win without the People

The vanguard can’t ever win alone. The good thing about the vanguard, is that it is politically conscious, but the bad thing about the vanguard, is that it is small. By definition the most advanced section of the working class is only a minority of the working class, and it cannot overthrow capitalism on its own. It must show the way, leading by example, and win the trust of the wide masses of the people to support it, and carry out the revolution. The revolution is not carried out by the vanguard, but by the people.

“Victory cannot be won with the vanguard alone…The immediate task that confronts the class-conscious vanguard of the international labour movement, i.e., the Communist parties… is to be able to lead the broad masses (now, for the most part, slumbering, apathetic, bound by routine, inert and dormant) to their new position, or, rather, to be able to lead not only their own party, but also these masses, in their approach, their transition to the new position.”
~LENIN, “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder (Chapter 10)

“The point here is not that the vanguard should realise the impossibility of preserving the old regime and the inevitability of its overthrow. The point is that the masses, the millions should understand this inevitability and display their readiness to support the vanguard. But the masses can understand this only from their own experience. The task is to enable the vast masses to realise from their own experience the inevitability of the overthrow of the old regime, to promote such methods of struggle and forms of organisations as will make it easer for the masses to realise from experience the correctness of the revolutionary slogans.”
~STALIN, The Foundations of Leninism (Chapter VII)

The vanguard can only hope to guide the masses to revolution, if the ideas the party puts forward truly appeal to the masses and truly serve their interests. Winning the trust and support of the people is not easy, it only comes through hard work of educating the people and serving their interests. But it is absolutely necessary.

“…the Party would cease to be a party… if the Party turned in on itself and became divorced from the non-Party masses. The Party cannot lead the class if it is not connected with the non-Party masses, if there is no bond between the Party and the non-Party masses, if these masses do not accept its leadership, if the Party enjoys no moral and political credit among the masses.”
~STALIN, The Foundations of Leninism (Chapter VIII)
DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM

The organizational principle of democratic centralism is closely linked with the idea of Vanguardism, which arises from Marx’s concept of class consciousness. The debate around democratic centralism often boils down to the question of the role of a party member. Opponents of Leninism argued that anyone who supported socialism, should be able to sign up as a party member. In their mind, party members should not be oligated into anything, the party should be as big as possible, and it could tolerate different kinds of views.

1. Active revolutionaries:

In Lenin’s view the party needed active revolutionaries, not passive supporters. Hence a party member should belong to one of the party organizations and work in it. This separates a revolutionary party from a reformist party. A revolutionary party has no need for members who are nothing but voters, or names on a paper. These are sympathizers, supporters, not party members. Being a supporter is fine, but it is not enough.
2. Agreement on core principles:

In Lenin’s view a member of the party also needs to be someone who not only supports the idea of socialism, but actually upholds the principles and policy of the party. A Leninist party supports the ideas of revolutionary Marxism, and those who don’t agree with these core beliefs can’t be members of a Leninist party.

A party with mutually exclusive views about its fundamental beliefs will either be disunited or will lack any clear principle. This can work for a bourgeois party, or a party aimed only at winning some election seats, or passing small reforms, but it won’t work for a revolutionary marxist party. A revolution requires unity and trust.

3. Real unity:

The Leninist party functions based on “freedom of speech & unity of action”. This means that decisions are made democratically but they are binding on everyone. A member of the party is obligated to follow the decisions of the majority. When voluntarily joining the party, members agree to this principle. The same rules and decisions of the party are binding on all members, not only those who choose to follow them.

“Parties belonging to the Communist International must be organised on the principle of democratic centralism.”
~Terms of Admission into Communist International

“The discipline and organisation which come so hard to the bourgeois intellectual are very easily acquired by the proletariat… Mortal fear … and utter failure to understand its importance as an organising factor are characteristic of the ways of thinking which reflect the petty-bourgeois mode of life and which give rise to the … aristocratic anarchism, as I would call it. This aristocratic anarchism is particularly characteristic of the Russian nihilist. He thinks of the Party organisation as a monstrous “factory”; he regards the subordination of the part to the whole and of the minority to the majority as “serfdom”… division of labour under the direction of a centre evokes from him a tragi-comical outcry against transforming people into “cogs and wheels”… mention of the organisational Rules of the Party calls forth a contemptuous grimace and the disdainful remark … that one could very well dispense with Rules altogether.”
~LENIN, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (Part Q)
4. Against Factionalism:
In 1921 in the 10th Bolshevik party congress Lenin proposed the so-called “ban on factions” which was accepted. In practice this means that the party won’t tolerate any more or less permanent factional or opposition groupings, that work against the majority of the party or put forward a political line that goes against the rest of the party. Having such interal factions is obviously very harmful for a party as it divides members into competing cliques. According to democratic centralism, members of the party are obligated to go along with the decision of the majority, or they will have to leave.

“All class-conscious workers must clearly realise that factionalism of any kind is harmful and impermissible, for no matter how members of individual groups may desire to safeguard Party unity, factionalism in practice inevitably leads to the weakening of team-work and to… attempts by the enemies… to use it for counter-revolutionary purposes…”
~LENIN, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) (Part IV)

 

Role of disagreement

The issue of unity naturally raises the question of disagreement. The party is not only based on unity, but also democracy and freedom of debate. In fact, real unity is only possible via agreement, it cannot be forced.

So, if party members 1) agree with the principles of the party 2) agree to follow the democratic decisions of the party, and 3) don’t take part in factional activity, then what is the role of disagreement?

Issues are decided democratically, with freedom of debate. Everyone will be able to say what they want to say. That doesn’t mean their proposition will be accepted, but they will have a chance to present it. Questions also won’t be decided for all time. The party’s principles will remain, but the practical policy will have to change constantly. The composition of the leadership will also change. This means that questions of the party’s political line will be raised again and will have to be decided again because the situation will change.

When deciding big political questions its important that everyone has the chance to speak. If the party is very split on a question the problem won’t be solved by a narrow majority trying to silence the minority. It is important that enough time is given for discussion to take place fully before a decision is made. Real unity can’t be forced and without democracy the party leadership will lose touch with the membership and make wrong decisions.

There will always remain people who don’t agree with the majority, and this is normal. Nobody agrees with everyone else on every single thing. Disagreement is allowed within the conifines of the party rules. As long as members don’t break party discipline or engage in factionalism, they can disagree, and when the time comes for a new decision and new vote, they can argue for their side just like everyone else.

“…an important, serious and extremely responsible task: really to apply the principles of democratic centralism in Party organisation, to work tirelessly to make the local organisations the principal organisational units of the Party in fact, and not merely in name, and to see to it that all the higher-standing bodies are elected, accountable, and subject to recall.”

“…there must be complete unity of action… Action by the proletariat must be united… But beyond the bounds of unity of action there must be the broadest and freest discussion and condemnation of all steps, decisions and tendencies that we regard as harmful. Only through such discussions, resolutions and protests can the real public opinion of our Party be formed. Only on this condition shall we be a real Party, always able to express its opinion, and finding the right way to convert a definitely formed opinion into the decisions…”
~LENIN, Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Part VIII)

“Democratic centralization in the Communist Party organization must be a real synthesis, a fusion of centralism and proletarian democracy. This fusion can be achieved only on the basis of constant common activity, constant common struggle of the entire Party organization… enemies… assert that the Communist Party… is trying rule over the revolutionary proletariat. Such an assertion is a lie … the centralization of the organization, i. e., the aim to create a strong leadership, cannot be successful if its achievement is sought on the basis of formal democracy. The necessary preliminary conditions are the development and maintenance of living associations and mutual relations within the Party between the directing organs and members, as well as between the Party and the masses of the proletariat outside the Party.
(Principles of Party Organization, adopted by the 3rd Congress of the Comintern)

“Precise operation of democratic centralism in the Party as demanded by our Party statutes, unconditional electiveness of Party organs, the right to put forward and to withdraw candidates, the secret ballot and freedom of criticism and self-criticism…”
~STALIN, Mastering Bolshevism

“…democratic centralist method… is a mass-line method. First democracy, then centralism; coming from the masses, returning to the masses; the unity of the leadership and the masses… Both inside and outside the Party there must be a full democratic life, which means conscientiously putting democratic centralism into effect.”
~MAO TSE-TUNG, Talk At An Enlarged Working Conference Convened By The Central Committee Of The Communist Party Of China

Party work

“…we must affirm anew the discipline of the Party, namely:

(1) the individual is subordinate to the organization;

(2) the minority is subordinate to the majority;

(3) the lower level is subordinate to the higher level; and

(4) the entire membership is subordinate to the central Committee.”
~Mao Tse Tung, The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War
In parties based on democratic centralism party bodies are elected. A democratic centralist party typically has one centralized leadership.

This can take a number of different forms:

Typically a communist party has local organizations, a Central Committee and a Politburo.

The communist party has a collective leadership. It has a Chairman and other high ranking positions, but none of them can decide on their own.

The C.C. is elected by a congress. The congresses are held at given intervals, for example every few years. In the congresses local organizations send representatives with right to vote who then elect the leadership of the party, the C. C. and political executive committee aka. the politburo.

The C. C. usually contains a relatively large amount of people. Somewhere around 20 is not unusual. The Politburo is smaller, consisting of the chairman and some other high ranking C. C. members. The job of the Politburo is to manage the every day affairs of the party and it has a lot of power but at the same time it’s accountable and aswerable to the C. C. The politburo is basically a smaller group of leaders who meet often and make quick decisions on immediate tasks. The C. C. is a bigger group that meets less often, maybe only a few times a year and decides broader questions of the party’s political, ideological and tatical line. The C. C. decides and the politburo implements the decisions.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:

LENIN, What Is To Be Done?

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/

LENIN, “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder
http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/LWC20.html

LENIN, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1904/onestep/index.htm

LENIN, Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1906/rucong/index.htm

LENIN, Terms of Admission into Communist International

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/x01.htm

LENIN, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/10thcong/index.htm

LENIN, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jan/25.htm

Principles of Party Organization, adopted by the 3rd Congress of the Comintern

http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/PPO21.html

MAO, The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_10.htm

MAO, Talk At An Enlarged Working Conference Convened By The Central Committee Of The Communist Party Of China
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-8/mswv8_62.htm

STALIN, The Foundations of Leninism
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1924/foundations-leninism/index.htm

STALIN, The Prospects of the Communist Party of Germany and the Question of Bolshevisation
http://marx2mao.com/Stalin/PCPG25.html
STALIN, Mastering Bolshevism
http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/MB37.html

 

Further reading:
PEKING REVIEW: A Discussion on Party Democratic Centralism
https://www.marxists.org/subject/china/peking-review/1971/PR1971-43a.htm

LENIN, Two Tactics
https://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/feb/14.htm

LENIN, The Reorganisation of the Party
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/reorg/i.htm#v10pp65-029

lenin speech4

“Questions of the United Front in Germany“ by Walter Ulbricht (Aug 26. 1939)

Stand of the unity front in the country

 

In the reports of instructors it is said, that the comradely coherence of the antifascist workers became stronger. With the intensification of the political situation in September 1938 and by occasion of questions of work time and wages 1939 the comradely relations to the social-democrats has improved in many enterprises. The solidarity of the workers in the enterprise departments became more firm. That is proven by the resistance movements at the West Wall¹, in the mines and also on many places of the metal industry. In general it did not succeed yet to develop the comradely relations to a political relationship. The connections are large and good, but that all relies on friendship and randomness. The mutual trust is restricted on the hate against fascism.

 

In September 1938 the social resistance movements stepped backed behind the general discussion of the war questions. That seems to be come from, that the main orientation of the antifascists was concentrated on this question. In the report from Rhineland-Westphalia it is being said, that from meetings to prepare the resistance movement could not be spoken about yet. The instructor from Kiel says, that the comradeship became better, but it did not come to organized movements yet. They at least dare to discuss about all possible questions in groups again. Still the collaboration is mostly, to give tips to each other how to prevent piecework pressure.

 

An instructor from the Wasserkante says, that there is unclarity about the how of the struggle to the fall of Hitler and the necessary unity. In diverse reports the comradely relations of communists and social-democrats are already labelled as united front, although in some reports it is said, that over united actions are not spoken about yet.

 

Which character does the united-front-like collaboration between social-democrats and communist groups has?

 

I will bring up some examples, which characterize the most typical things. United-front-like collaboration is existing with such left groups, which are already ideologically close to us. The Mahnruf-Group² in Hamburg is standing in contact with us for some years, although the connection was temporarily lost. They have drafted flyers together with us or accepted the publishing of them. They are against the party directorate, but are not clear about what should come after Hitler yet. They declare, that their agitation has the goal to use very possibility to stir dissatisfaction.

 

At Siemens in Berlin a social-democratic group, which was connected with the leadership of the 10-Points-Group, works united-front-like together with us and also handed out flyers with us.

 

In a city in Ruhr Area a left social-democratic group works with us together for years. They have handed out flyers with us and also wrote to the party directorate and demanded the creation of the united front. Collaboration also exists with at Blohm & Voß in Hamburg with a social-democratic group. The communication over planned executive tasks intern and outside the enterprise does not exist yet. In the other apprehended enterprises in hamburg relations to social-democrats are existing. The relation is that of worker to worker.

 

A group of social-democrats and communists in Berlin has handed out a common flyer against Hitler´s war politics. For sure there are even more social-democratic groups which are collaborating with us.

 

The most characteristic of that collaboration, as far it is in the country itself, is the general propaganda against Hitler´s war politics. Insufficiently is being answered on the main arguments of the Nazis and insufficiently reasoned are these economic, social and directed against fascist enforced actions directed demands, which are useful for bringen the masses into motion.

 

Self-critical it is being said in the Hamburg report: “The thinking and acting of the biggest part of the social-democrats is unknown for us.“ In another report it is being said: “In all areas our friends are still hesitating to create connections with the social-democrats.“ In different reports it is being indicated, that the unclarity over the united and people´s front politics in Spain and France works debilitating.

 

The crisis among the social-democracy

 

The SPD is political and organizationally splintered. They exist in the country as friendship circles, who meet because of diverse, mostly legal reasons. Occasionally social-democratic functionaries use their occupation as small merchants, to meet their social-democratic comrades as customers. Specially the right-wing of the social-democrats are trying to spread the directives of the party directorate on this way. In general a left-development of many social-democrats, specially under the influence of the politics of the Soviet Union, can be detected.

 

1. A minority of active left social-democrats is for the unity of the working class, is ready for single steps of common antifascist propaganda, but has multiple doubts towards our demand of a democratic republic.

 

2. The biggest part of the social-democrats is acting in the representation of daily workers interests, is connected with the masses, is member of mass organizations and is for the democratic republic. Mostly these social-democrats have learned from the past, have a comradely relationship to the communists, but have some political distrust against the KPD.

 

3. The right-wing social-democratic functionaries in the country preach waiting, speculating on the automatically fall of fascism and speak often from a coming military dictatorship.

 

A famous former trade union leader said, that the war would be unpreventable and lead to the defeat of Germany. He says:

 

“It is not task of the German socialists to bring unnecessary victims for work in the country, but we must do anything to get contact to the military forces, which will dictate peace after the lost war by Germany.“

 

Another former social-democratic trade union leader said in discussion with a comrade:

 

“The reform of Marxism is a step forwards… The fascism will collapse by economic difficulties by itself. It is the people´s own fault that the fascism came. Weimar gave the possibility to vote correctly.“

 

The right-wing social-democratic leaders abroad are now going over to develop a reactionary platform as basis of the unification of the social-democrats.

 

Since 1933 the following development phases can be detected:

 

In spring 1933 the party directorate looked for a compromise with the fascism. The Reichstag faction voted for Hitler´s foreign policy and Wels left the executive of II. Internationale. When also the social-democratic leaders had to emigrate, they tried to keep the social-democracy together by concessions towards the left social-democrats. It came the manifesto of January 1934, which created the possibility of united-front-like collaboration of social-democrats and communists.

 

After that the Revolutionary Socialists published their revolutionary platform and inside the social-democratic apparatus the united-front-friendly forces gained influence. The right-wingers in the party directorate did everything they could to smash and prevent the unification of revolutionary social-democrats and removed their representatives step by step from the apparatus.

 

When bigger difficulties in struggle of the people´s front in Spain and France came up, the party directorate demanded the cancelling of unity-front-like collaboration between communists and social-democrats in the country and in Paris.

 

After the party directorate was successful to prevent the common action of revolutionary socialdemocrats in the country, it went over in the second half of the years 1938 to the reasoning of its political positions. Till then it saw itself just as the trustee of the socialdemocracy in Germany, it delcared now in the call of 14. September 1938:

“The directorate of the Social-democratic Party of Germany is the last organ, which was elected by the social-democratic mass organizations in Germany.“³

 

By that it announced again the exclusive leadership-claim. Wels became active again, was elected into the executive of II. Internationale again and united openly with the right-wing elements. A situation has developed in which the right-winged social-democratic leaders do a systematically offensive while the left social-democrats in the country are splintered and a part of the emigrated social-democrats, who are against the party directorate, are standing under influence of diverse Trotskyite groups.

 

The content of the right-wing-social-democratic platform

 

There is no worked out program, but a series of articles by Stampfer, Geyer and others, which were introduces by the declaration of Stampfer, that the working out of a social-democratic program would be necessary, already are being a social-democratic platform. That this so called party directorate is against the united and people´s front, comes from Stampfer´s exposition, that the SPD would have a decisive task due to the position between right-wing groups and communists. Geyer openly propagates an “undogmatic socialism“. Sollmann wrote: “For me class-socialism and class-politics of the workers have failed.“⁴ He delcared, that the Communist Mnaifesto could not be the basis of social-democratic concentration, like it seems some want. Stampfer is in these questions more skillful. He falsifies Marxism, uses for that some Marx quotes to be able to influence a bigger circle of socialdemocratic supporters. From these articles comes the following statement to political foundational questions: In the statement to imperialism in diverse articles he defends the line of SPD during the First World War. Wels says, that the social-democratic policy was right back then. Stampfer says: “Germany could have been united till the end of war, when it had focused on defense targets.“⁵ He defends the so called Peace Resolution⁷ of the Reichstag majority in July 1917. Factly these social-democrats are denying the existence of German imperialism. The aggressive imperialist forces do they see in the top of fascist bureaucracy. They reject to stand for the slogan of defeat of Hitler-Germany in case of war.

 

Towards the character of fascism Stampfer questions: “Was it really the bourgeoisie which brought Hitler into power… ?“⁶ He writes:

 

“He self, Hitler is – it ahs to be said, even when it is awkward – through and through a product of the modern revolutionary development and not thinkable without it.“⁸

 

The rejection of the Hitler regime would be in parts of the bourgeoisie stronger than among the industrial workers.⁹ The “proud Rhinish entrepreneurs“ would not let Hitler dictate them anything.¹⁰ By the way the social-democrats have the position of equating fascism and bolshevism. Geyer writes for example:

 

“The totalitarist idea itself – not just its racist form – is the real enemy of freedom. It lies on the ground of racism like nationalism or the orthodox class struggle teaching.“¹¹

 

In the question of the democratic republic they stand for a “authoritarian democracy“, like Sollmann is calling it. Stampfer is for a “temporary dictatorship of the republicans“¹², by what he means the suppression of the revolutionary forces, like he further explains it in an article, in which he writes: When the communists support the social-democratic politics, then a second Noske-politics is impossible.¹³ Stampfer claims, formerly the working class would have been educated to an overstated power consciousness. He puts today the future constitutional question into the foreground and to disguise the question, which class forces will be active in the future republic, by general speeches about “the people“. To the people´s front they have the opinion, that it would be a kind of coalition politics too and would not contrast from what the social-democracy did in Weimar Republic. To the question, why the SPD rejects the collaboration with the communists, Geyer answers: “The antidemocratic totalitarian ulterior motives are what takes the arguments of the communists all convincing power.“¹⁴ Sollmann writes in a letter to Stampfer:

 

“What is for you and me holy, ´Weimar´, is for others, also social-democrats, in best cases a bunch of errors, of weakness, of illusions, of personal deficiency. This deep border line inside the social-democracy has already in Weimar era hindered some of our actions…“¹⁵

 

What they imagine as a democratic republic, also comes out of the fact, that Sollmann stands for an “estatist structured socialism“¹⁶ and Stampfer speaks about “planned economic, progressive tendencies“ of fascism and demands, that these “progresses“ must be kept in the future republic.

 

Source: Walter Ulbricht “Zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung – Band II – Zweiter Zusatzband“, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1968

 

¹ also known as Siegfried Line

 

² Socialdemocratic group which acted together with communists

 

³ Neuer Vorwärts (Paris), Nr. 274, 18. September 1938, German

 

⁴ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 284, 27. November 1938, German

 

⁵ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 321, 13. August 1939, German

 

⁶ A resolution by socialdemocrats around Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann in July 1917, being adopted by SPD, Zentrum and FVP (in Weimar later DDP) [so by the later “Weimar Coalition“]. In it is being denied that World War I is an aggressive war by Germany and it is claimed that just the other nations would want to crush Germany. So it was a denial of the existence of German imperialism.

 

⁷ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 310, 28. Mai 1939, German

 

⁸ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 275, 25. September 1938, German

 

⁹ cf. Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 312, 11. Juni 1939, German

 

¹⁰ cf. Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 310, 28. Mai 1939, German

 

¹¹ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 321, 13. August 1939, German

 

¹² Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 274, 16. September 1938, German

 

¹³ cf. Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 311, 4. June 1939, German

 

¹⁴ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 321, 13. August 1939, German

 

¹⁵ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 284, 27. November 1938, German

¹⁶ “Ständesozialismus“ (“Estate-Socialism“) like used as a phrase in fascist Austria 1933-1938; it is an euphemistic term to disguise the character of fascism, just like “National-Socialism“ in Nazi-Germany

Thanks to The Red Path!

First Coincidence near Stalingrad – Talk between Catholic priest Josef Kayser and Walter Ulbricht, Feb 2 1944

Lead-in: Dear listeners! About their first coincidence near Stalingrad the former communist Reichstag deputy Walter Ulbricht is talking with the Catholic Wehrmacht priest Josef Kayser.
Ulbricht: So, Mr. priest, can you remember what was a year ago?
Kayser: Sure! Back then I met you, Mr. Ulbricht, shortly after my capture in dugout in Verdyachi. Never I will forget our first talk back then.
Ulbricht: Seems the last year brought you much. And now on anniversary of our first meet we are together again, but now in Moscow. Back then – so it seems for me – you have not understand me well. But today we work together.
Kayser: You are totally right, Mr. Ulbricht. This year has brought us together, you, the communist, and me, the Catholic priest. But to be honest, on our first meeting I was a bit terrified.
Ulbricht: So, what impressed you so much?
Kayser: You did not try to coax me but said me freely into my face that the defeat of the two German armies at Stalingrad is the beginning of the defeat of Hitler. I remember your comparison. You said back then, Hitler had not just pushed the German troops at Stalingrad into the pocket, but Hitler has pocketed whole Germany. I remember your words of goodbye: “Watch out, Mr. priest, in a few weeks you will be totally have my opinion and you will fight with us against Hitler.”
Ulbricht: So, was I not right, was I?
Kayser: Of course! But back then I was far away from my current understanding. I have always been an enemy of the exaggerated Führer principe and an enemy of the race theory. I have stood as Catholic youth leader in struggle against Gestapo and SS. Just because of my conscription to Wehrmacht I just escaped imprisonment in a concentration camp. But working together with communists, I was just afraid of that.
Ulbricht: There we have it. You seem to have thought communists are savages.
Kayser: That is almost right.
Ulbricht: Do you remember when I told you about that the communists in Germany indeed recognize the struggle of Catholic Church against Hitler and support them where they can?
Kayser: Yes, you told me surprinsingly about my friend, chaplain Rossaint, who was judged together with communists in a Nazi cangaroo trial.
Ulbricht: So it was. We communists esteem and recognize every honest creed, you must have seen this by yourself in this first year as a prisoner of war.
Kayser: Of course! I can tell you, Mr. Ulbricht, that this experience was the deepest reason why we got together so quickly. If the people in Germany would find together like that! All enemies of Hitler!
Ulbricht: So it will come, Mr. priest! You can be sure about that.
Kayser: Now you speak again as superior and sure like back then, when I sat in front of you on the plank bed in the dugout of Verdyachi.
Ulbricht: Yes! See, Mr. priest, we communists do sober real politics. Marx and Lenin,
who´s books are of course banned in Germany, have tought us a deep view on history, which enables us to realize the economic and political relations, which constitute history.
Kayser: That is right! I have also read in these books and learned some new things. Before that we just heard about Marxism, that he would fight God and church and wants to turn the world into chaos.
Ulbricht: And therefore you fought against Soviet Russia? Like in a crusade?
Kayser: Sadly! Sadly!
Ulbricht: And now you see an orderly state, free, happy people, who love their fatherland and defend it with all means. Do you know, that years ago the Soviet government gave churches, which were closed, back to their religious purpose when the people wanted it so?
Kayser: I have heard from it and read by myself, that Stalin in a speech to the youth already before the war went with barbed words against outrages, which smeared the church and priests. When the Catholic people in Germany would know about that.
Ulbricht: Here in Russia the people is ruling. Also the German peoople will open their eyes. Then there will be an end with Hitler and his slavery. The Russian and German people will understand each other well. They belong together. And also the church will have its importance in a free Germany. Rely on that, Mr. priest. The Catholics have fought heroic in Nazi-Germany with us. That will not be forgotten.
Kayser: Yes, when the German people would be so united like we both!
Ulbricht: Why should that be impossible, we can see it already in the National Committee [“Free Germany”].
Kayser: Yes, Stalingrad has brought us to that! Maybe the Lord God had to send us through this hell, that we can buildup now a more beautiful Germany together will all good powers of the German people.
Ulbricht: Right! – And we specially that we can prevent an even worse Stalingrad for the German people.
Kayser: You stay ever the sober real politician! Praise God!

Source: “To the History of German Workers Movement – Extra-Volume to Volume II, 2. Half-Volume” by Walter Ulbricht (published in 1968), German

 

 

Thanks to The Red Path!

“How is the unity for the fall of Hitler?” by Walter Ulbricht, (Aug 27 1939)

The main task, which moves all antifascists in Germany, is: On which way can we liberate Germany from the rule of the fascist war mongers? Doubtless, it is only possible on the way of common struggle of all democratic, antifascist forces. The accomplishment and the action power of this democratic front is essentially depending on the unity and initiative of the working class in their struggle.

The working class is the force, who is suffering the most from the fascist rule and has to carry the biggest victims from a war provoked by Hitler, who has literally nothing to lose but her chains, who is concentrated in the big enterprises, the basis of fascist war production, who is standing in deepest contradiction by her class position to the fascist class rule of the most reactionary imperialist circles of German financial capital and struggles most consequently for the democratic freedom. When today the communication of the democratic forces in Germany is still at the beginning, then it is because the active antifascist forces of the working class do not or almost invisible agitate in action unity.

But there are already many examples, that communists, active social-democrats and former trade union activists organise united the resistance in the enterprises and had pushed through workers demands by use of the legal possibilities in the DAF¹. Decisive was by that mostly the initiative of communists and revolutionary social-democrats, their common approach and their connection to other DAF-members. In some industrial centers representatives of social-democratic groups and communist party organizations have handed out flyers against the extension of work time and for better wages and made commonly propaganda against the Great-German imperialism among the Work-Front-members. These are just actions of the most active, most consequent antifascist forces among the working class, which shows the possibilities of action unity. It is necessary, that specially in big enterprises the mass of communist, social-democratic, trade unionist and the other antifascist workers create the united front.
Against that are some social-democratic leaders, who seem to see their task in spreding defeatism, carrying non-believing in the own power into the working class. They claim, that the working class would be less active than other classes of the society, while they are continuing the struggle against the united front inside the country and do everything they can to prevent that workers become active. The offical organ of the social-democratic party directorate, the “Deutschlandbericht der Sopade”, are reasoning their defeatist standpoint with this:
“The political thinking people, active in trade union, were ever in minority. But as long there was a free workers movement, that minority always had the leadership… This force of the workers movement does not exist anymore. The National-socialists have destroyed them knowing and put their politics systematically on the atomization of the working people… Those, who thought before, are still thinking, those who did not think before, think now even less. Just, that the thinking ones do not lead anymore.”
This statement means nothing else but abandoning the organization of antifascist struggle.
When by the opinion of the social-democratic author the “politically thinking people”, so the class conscious workers, would be unable to lead the working masses, which leadership should the workers now have in their opinion? The political conception of the articles of Friedrich Stampfer, Hilferding, Wels, Sollmann means factly that the leadership in struggle against fascism would belong to the bourgeoisie. Stampfer claims, “that Hitler finds today far more followers among the working class than among the bourgeoisie”², but that “the proud Rhinish enterpreneurs”, like Stampfer likes to say, would not let Hitler telling them anything. So Stampfer also counts these fascist great capitalists, who brought Hitler into power, to the opposition. This orientation brings the social-democratic directorate to stay totally passive towards the struggle of the workers, while they are favorable towards the bourgeoisie. Stampfer speaks of the “progressive tendencies” in the fascist economy, and Sollmann characterises the future democracy as an “authoritarian democracy”, so semi-fascist.

Such a politics just serves the keeping of the split among the working class. She also directs also directly against the unity of democratic, antifascist forces, because the masses of peasants and petty bourgeoisie do not want to come from fascist hail and rain into the eave of “authoritarian-democratic” rule of the “proud Rhinish enterpreneurs”, even when she is being covered by “constitutional” and “planning” ornaments.

To what such a politics leads, the years 1918 till 1933 have taught us more than enough. From the historical experience comes the conclusion, that the democratic revolution must be carried out by the most progressive class, the working class, as the most consequent democratic force in the alliance with the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie in the cities and the progressive intilligentsia. By that it will also be possible to paralyse the “authoritarian” goals of anti-Hitlerist circles among the bourgeoisie.

Before the 30. June 1934 the party directorate representatnts to the socialdemocrats in the country, they should not make a united front with the communists, to not scare the opposition in the Nazi Party and the state appartus. Then before the 4. February 1938 it has been whispered with secretive hint on the opposition among the officer circles in the Reich army to prevent the creation of the united front. The result was, that Hitler got rid of that opposition very quickly, because the working class did not step into action. So Wels and Stampfer prevented by distraction of the action unity of the workers, that this opposition could lead to a crisis in the fascist regime. The existence of the united front, which we want since years, would have doubtlessly, that the working class could have stepped more into action during the September days 1938, during the days of the wild pogroms or this spring during the aggression against Czechoslovakia. Now the social-democratic leaders direct their views on diverse foreign forces, which have yet excelled itself by a Munich orientation.

It is not just the difficulties of communication, which make under the conditions of fascist terror the creation of a united front so difficult, but primarily the political influence of some social-democratic leaders. So a situation has developed, that a part of the social-democratic functionaries in Germany works in accordance to the platform of SPD-directorate of January 1934 for the unity of the working class, while the social-democratic directorate itself went backwards under influence of anti-Marxist circles in foreign countries and in fact gave up its own platform. That directorate has, by going over to combat every social-democratic functionary who works for unity of the working class, split the social-democracy itself into different directions.

We communists will continue with all of our power, that in the country the united front of communist and social-democratic organizations and functionaries will be created. May among the social-democracy a similar activity for the creation of the action unity of the working class come. For the German working class applies, what comrade Dimitrov wrote after the Munich Conspiracy:

“From outstanding importance is the advise of the great Lenin, that the working class has primarily to gain the belief in the own power, has to smash the damned pre-judgement, that the peoples could not get along without the leadership of bourgeoisie, that the bourgeoisie would decide over their destiny. the working class must deeply be permeated in the consciousness of necessity, to stand determined on the top of the people´s movement against fascism.”³
the collaboration of the antifascist, democratic forces can only succeed, when the necessary collaboration of organizations of the working class with the middle classes and the bourgeoisie democratic forces can just then lead to the goal – the democratic republic – when the strongest class, the working class by the action unity unfolds her power totally and encourages by that her direct allies, the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie in the cities, to action.

Permeated by that knowledge, a big amount of social-democratic groups came to the conclusion, not just creating the action unity with the communist party organizations, but also to take initiative, by connection to other groups, by flyers and illegal newspapers, to convince the masses of antifascist workers from the necessity of action unity. The flyers from Berlin and Rhine Land, the illegal newspaper from the Wasserkante and the memorandum of a social-democratic working circle proof that work. It is in the interest of the struggle against the fascist war politics, to have an open debate about why the unity of the antifascist, democratic forces need the unity front of the working class. The communists and the revolutionary workers support every resistance directed against fascism and every oppositional movement in the army, in the fascist organizations and among the bourgeoisie. the revolutionary forces of the working class must always be conscious, that all democratic and oppositional forces can just have achievements and victories in that amount, as the working class acts united and wins the masses of peasantry and petty bourgeoisie as allies.

Walter Ulbrich

¹Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Work Front) was the fascist pseudo-trade union
²Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 310, 28. Mai 1939, German
³ Georgi Dimitroff: Ausgewählte Schriften, Bd. 3, Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1958, S. 125, German

Source: Deutsche Volkszeitung, 27. August 1939, German

Thanks to RedPath!

Responding to Xexizy on “Not-real-Socialism”

Xexizy is basically correct when he defines capitalism:

The definition of capitalism is not only private property, it is:

PRIVATE PROPERTY, & MODERN MARKET ECONOMY. Goods are produced privately to be sold for profit.

However he is fundamentally wrong in his critique of the definition “socialism is common ownership of the means of production”. Xexizy points out that both feudalism and capitalism had private property but this is precisely why we define socialism as collective ownership.

This definition is used because socialism is the only system in which the means of production are owned in common.

We often also add that socialism replaces market economy with a planned economy. However Xexizy ignores this part completely. We also define capitalism as private production mostly for exchange as opposed to feudalism.

Xexizy is claiming that the USSR and other socialist countries were not really socialist. This is why he has come up with this scheme. His scheme is not at all obvious or evident or logical when reading Marx. It is something he has imposed on Marx because he wants to arrive at a certain conclusion. A conclusion not supported by Marxism but something he wants to twist Marxism to say.

This is why Xexizy has come up with his argument. Now I will show you how he is wrong:

Xexizy tries to artificially separate the so-called transitional stage from Lower Phase of Communism. In fact Marx only spoke about Lower & Higher Communism, and not about a specific third phase called the “Transitional Stage” especially since the Lower Phase is also a transitional stage.
According to Xexizy in the transitional stage everything is administered by the state but it is still not socialism. This doesn’t make any sense as in the immediate transition everything is obviously not administered by the state. The workers can take over the state, but the state won’t control the entire economy in the transition.

The reason why Xexizy claims this is obviously because he wants to claim the Soviet Union was just “evil-state-capitalism-not-real-socialism”. But really the transitional step from capitalism to socialism applies very well to something like the Soviet Union in Lenin’s administration, when the state controlled the economic heights, but didn’t abolish all private property yet.

The Stalin administration abolished private property and market economy (the two defining elements of capitalism) and thus created socialism. However based on Xexizy’s definition neither one of them was socialist. Obviously Lenin’s administration was the transition, the preparation for socialism which was then built by Stalin.

Xexizy misunderstands Marx when he quotes him:

“Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products”
(Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme)

This shouldn’t be taken absolutely literally, especially because in the very next paragraph Marx begins to describe “exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange”, he simply means that individuals won’t be selling their labor or products as individuals, but all of this is part of the social process.

“since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor.”
(Marx, Ibid.)

He was making this point specifically as a counter argument against the Lassallean petty-bourgeois notion of “undiminished proceeds of labor”.

But we will get to the specifics of what exactly all this stuff about commodity circulation means in a bit.

The same goes for Marx’s comment about value:

“…just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them”

(Marx, Ibid.)

He is not denying the existence of value but saying that value is not a regulator of the economy anymore. Stalin says the following about this:

“the law of value can be a regulator of production only under capitalism, with private ownership of the means of production, and competition, anarchy of production, and crises of overproduction.”
(Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR)

However when asked if Value still exists in the USSR he said:

“Wherever commodities and commodity production exist, there the law of value must also exist.”

(Stalin, Ibid.)

Marx also acknowledged this. In describing the exchange or distribution of goods in Lower stage of Communism he said:

“Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values.”

(Marx, Ibid.)

Marx defines Lower Communism in this way:

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society — after the deductions have been made — exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.”
(Marx, Ibid.)

In simple terms this means that people work and receive payment, which they will then exchange for products, or means of consumption.

Instead in the Higher Phase of Communism products won’t be rationed, allocated or exchanged but will be given according to need.

Xexizy claims that in Socialism there cannot be Commodity Production. What he should say is that in the higher phase of communism there is no commodity production. In the lower phase it still exists. This is demonstrated by the fact that people work and are paid in return. Xexizy defines a commodity as something which is to be sold. Then what are these means of consumption which people will receive in return for payment? Are they not exactly commodities in Xexizy’s own definition? They are products which are sold i.e. commodities. However Xexizy’s definition is not exactly accurate, as in socialism products are not made to be sold, they are made to be used. They are still sold in the lower phase of communism which makes them commodities, but selling them is not the point, they are made for use, selling them is only the method of rationing them and funding their production.

“…nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption. But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.”
(Marx, Ibid.)

Then Xexizy attempts to explain the difference between Higher and Lower Communism. He claims the only difference is that in Higher Communism products will be given according to need. As I’ve already explained, the fact that products are not given according to need but according to work as in Lower Communism like in the USSR it already implies commodity production in this sense. The Soviet Union couldn’t yet abolish commodity production. One reason was because they couldn’t simply give things for free, because they didn’t have super abundance characteristic of higher communism.

But according to Xexizy’s strange definition this, distribution of goods in return for payment for work is not commodity production. His description of lower communism is thus self-contradicting.
In Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx says in Lower Communism or Socialism:
“a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.”

Products which are exchanged are commodities. However Marx makes a distinction here between this type of distribution, exchanging work for products and between exchanging products for other products. This commodity production in the usual sense is what he calls commodity production in Critique of the Gotha Programme.

As Lenin said:

“A commodity is, in the first place, a thing that satisfies a human want; in the second place, it is a thing that can be exchanged for another thing.”
(Lenin, KARL MARX: A Brief Biographical Sketch With an Exposition of Marxism)

If you have distribution according to payment, as Marx states we will have in Lower Communism, then you inevitably have commodity production in this sense in Lower Communism.

Exchange of products did also exist in Socialist countries for one reason: because not everything was owned by the state. They had a co-operative and collective farm sector which didn’t belong to society as a whole but only to the workers in those collectives. As a result of this their product only belonged to the collective and had to be exchanged with society for other products.

A society with collectives and co-operatives is socialist but not yet communist. That is, it is in the lower phase. For full-communism, co-operatives must become owned by the entire society as a whole and hence cease being co-operatives.

Xexizy criticizes Stalin’s plan to reduce the sphere of commodity circulation between town and country by creating a system of products exchange without money based on a plan. But this critique is rather laughable. He claims that this is only a form of barter and barter being a lower historical stage of trade it will inevitably lead to capitalist trade and commodity production.

In reality of course creating a system where goods are moneylessly allocated according to a plan is moving closer to communism. Naturally Xexizy doesn’t offer any other alternative plan of his own, and I doubt he even understands the details about why exactly Stalin made this suggestion, it being only a suggestion aimed at the collectives which were not owned by the state, to bring them under the same level of planning as the state and bringing them closer to being public property.

If everything was already public property and not collective property this would not be necessary.

Xexizy’s critique is a typical left-communist critique as it only labels something as not-real-socialism but offers no solutions.

Xexizy also claims the Soviet Union had wage labour but offers no proof of this. He quotes Stalin’s book on economics but omits the part where Stalin says labour doesn’t appear as a commodity on the market in the USSR and they therefore don’t have wage-labour.

Wage-labour doesn’t mean being paid. Marx himself says that in Lower communism people will receive means of consumption, or products as payment for work performed.
Furthermore Xexizy claims that Socialism is stateless.

This is particularly strange and he offers no source for this. He only presents us with the following deduction: since socialism is classless, and the state is an instrument of class struggle. Therefore the state should be abolished in socialism.

This is profoundly mistaken. First of all class struggle does not end in socialism. It only ends in Communism, the higher phase.

When Marx complains that the Gotha Programme does not deal with the dictatorship of the proletariat or “with the future state of communist society” he is talking about the Lower Phase, Socialism in which this state is in the process of withering away. It will be completely withered when we reach Higher Communism. Xexizy’s definition of Higher Communism fails here because according to him the state should already have withered before.

The debate between Anarchists and “state-socialists” like Marx also seems quite absurd if Marx truly believed Socialism to be stateless as Xexizy is claiming.

The last topic I want to discuss is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Xexizy doesn’t mention this term for some reason, he only talks about a mysterious “transitional stage” when he ought to be talking about the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat encompasses the entire period between capitalism and full-communism. That means, until every vestige of capitalism is gone and we exist in a worldwide communist society.

Xexizy implies that socialism can never be built as long as there are capitalist countries out there. But this contradicts everything he said before as he deliberately emphasized that Capitalism and Socialism are not modes of ownership but Modes of Production. So what happens if we establish a socialist mode of production somewhere, but capitalism still exists out there in a different country? He offers no solution.

This can all be traced to Xexizy’s confused definition of Socialism. We speak about the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Socialist Mode of Production and full-communism but in his mind they all merge into the same confusion. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat is not a mode of production, therefore it can exist at the same time as socialist mode of production, or not. It can also exist in one country or many countries. His insistence that a socialist mode of production must be stateless and international, is not based on science or economics but on ideology. That is not his idea of socialism, so he refuses to call it what it is. But a socialist mode of production, is precisely that regardless of what you think about it.

Xexizy is confused when he labels countries like the USSR with a socialist mode of production, common ownership of the means of production and planned economy, under the same vague term “transitional stage” together with other workers’ states like the paris commune, which didn’t yet have planned economy, collective farms or common ownership in general.

Marx, Engels and other Communists define Socialism as common ownership of the Means of Production, or in other words the abolition of private property. Why is this not good enough for Xexizy?

Because he wants to be able to say the Soviet Union and other such countries were not “real-socialism”. This is not a scientific or objective position. This is the position of left-communists who simply want to call everything not-real-socialism. Even many Trotskyists and Anarchists don’t stoop to this. Orthodox Trotskyists choose to call the Soviet Union a degenerated workers’ state or bureaucracy, but don’t deny its socialist mode of production and Anarchists usually limit themselves to stating they are against “state-socialism”.

But Left-communists want to change the entire definition of Socialism to fit their idea of it. They want to say:

“Lenin, Mao, all the great revolutionaries, what do they know? They were wrong, but thank god we left-communist have got it all figured out.”

These people are the reason why “not-real-socialism” has become such a joke and a weapon commonly used against us socialists.

These are the same people who have been against actually existing socialism for ever. This is merely their most recent attemp at justifying themselves. Nothing about what they are talking about is evident in Marx’s own text, only through carefully selecting, twisting and interpreting Marx’s words through their left-communist lense have they arrived at this result. Others have read the exact same texts for a 100 years and not come to this left-communist conclusion.

I have a proposition to make. We know what socialism is, we know what state-capitalism is. We know what these terms mean. So if you don’t like the Soviet Union, then just say you don’t like the Soviet Union. Don’t try to twist the definitions just to be able to say nothing was ever socialism.

Thank you.

marx

Vegetarianism & Communism

Having been both vegetarian & a communist for more then 5 years now I decided to finally write something about the connection between these issues. Does vegetarianism have anything to do with Communism and vice-versa?

BRIEF STORY ABOUT MY POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT

Before becoming a Communist I was a proponent of Schopenhauer’s philosophical pessimism. Where ever I turned I saw immense suffering, poverty, war, exploitation. About half of humanity (3.6 billion people) lives on less then 2 dollars per day while large portions of Africa live much worse. 80% lives on less then 10 dollars per day.

The Capitalist economic system fails to provide even the most basic necessities for countless millions and Western corporate interest actually actively hinders the development of most third world countries. 10 million die each year due to hunger and hunger related causes. Only 8% of this is due to natural disasters or war. 92% is simply due to economics, the poor can’t afford food. Meanwhile about half of the world’s food is wasted and left to rot as there is nobody (no paying customer) to purchase it. The needs of humans are in absolute antagonistic contradiction compared to the capitalist economic system.

Animals were often even worse off then humans, being exploited in horrible conditions in factory farms. Billions of animals are born each year only to suffer and die for the sake of consumerism, unnecessarily.

I stopped eating meat soon after understanding how unnecessary and immoral it was. I also saw the bankruptcy and inhuman character of capitalism but it took me some time to abandon pessimism. It had led me to a situation where I saw no solution for any of these problems.

As I gradually learned about the practicality of Socialism, the real benefits it provided and the futility of all other alternatives I finally stopped complaining, and started doing something to improve things. None of these problems were innate in life or humanity, they were the result of concrete material conditions which could all be changed.

RECOGNITION THAT SUFFERING IS BAD

We all have a capacity to suffer. It is universally recognized by everyone that it is bad, to be avoided, undesirable by definition. A masochist, who enjoys e.g. physical pain, does not suffer from it, but actually derives pleasure from it. Suffering is something that we all define as a bad thing.

But we only define it as bad if it is targeted towards us, right? Yes, but what makes any individual special? We all have the same capacity to suffer. From our subjective experiences and the realization that there is an external world outside of us, we inevitable reach the conclusion that suffering is just as bad for everyone. This subjective truth that suffering is bad, is accepted by every subject and is thus universally, objectively true. The only way to avoid this conclusion is nihilism or solipsism, neither of which were ever convincing to me. Even a solipsist or nihilist still behaves like suffering is bad, even if their ideology denies it.

If we recognize that suffering is bad, it is only natural to want to reduce it. Capitalism causes tremendous unnecessary suffering for the sake of profit.

DEFENDERS OF ANIMAL EXPLOITATION

We communists seek to improve the lives of people. We want to make life better for them. But what about animals? Animals suffer exactly like humans.

The common arguments in favor of continuing unnecessary animal exploitation that I’ve heard are:

1. “We need animal products to survive”

This is a relatively common but entirely unfounded claim. There are countless people who have not consumed animal products for decades and still live normal lives.

2. “Animals are less intelligent so its ok to abuse them”

This argument is to me particularly reprehensible. The quasi-nazi character of this line of reasoning should be blatantly obvious.

Do we torture or abuse the mentally handicapped? Do we torture or abuse those of lesser intellect? Then why do we abuse animals? IQ does not effect ones capacity to suffer or feel joy.

On top of that animals are in reality highly intelligent (in many cases more intelligent then human children).

3. “I’m against factory farming but not all animal exploitation”

I oppose exploitation. Not just when its extreme but also when its a milder form. More humane treatment of animals is better, but why should we exploit or abuse them at all? Besides factory farming is more profitable. It makes sense for capitalists to continue doing it.

4. “Animals taste better”

This is not an argument at all, yet many still use it. It is the mentality of the morally bankrupt decadent egoist. Naturally as a Communist I cannot condone such behavior.

5. “Animal exploitation is natural”

This is an appeal to nature fallacy. Rape and murder are natural, yet every civilization has outlawed them. Animal exploitation is a phenomenon that developed out of concrete material conditions and is fundamentally unnecessary at this state of human development.

Secondly, there’s good reason to believe eating animals is not all that native to humans. Our bodies cannot fully digest meat and our teeth are not suited for raw flesh. Meat provides a source of protein but is also related to many negative health conditions.

6. “I need meat to be fit or build muscle”

This is an argument that particularly athletes, body builders and those who consider themselves to be on those categories use. However it is also untrue. There are many successful vegan athletes and body builders.

DEFENDERS OF HUMAN EXPLOITATION

What astounds me is that many vegetarians and vegans who recognize the unethical character of animal exploitation still hold right-wing political & economic views. If you are against animal exploitation, you should also be against human exploitation!

I will now deal with some common arguments made in favor of continuing human exploitation but I won’t go into great detail about specific anti-communist claims in this post.

1. “Animals are innocent but humans are not”

What about third world children? What are they guilty of? Humans don’t deserve exploitation any more then animals do.

2. “Animals are cute and humans are not”

Nobody would seriously argue this but many implicitly voice sentiments like this. We shouldn’t only defend the rights of those animals (or people) who we find aesthetically pleasing, they all can suffer or enjoy life just the same.

3. “Capitalism is voluntary, not exploitation like factory farming”

Humans are limited by their material conditions. Realistically in many third world countries unemployment means total destitution or even death. This is hardly a voluntary choice but rather one dictated by circumstances. These circumstances are created and maintained by the capitalist system itself.

In the West the situation is not as extreme but people who don’t own the means to employ themselves still must seek employment from a capitalist if they wish to live reasonably well. Even in the west losing one’s job can mean homelessness or going hungry, losing access to healthcare, being unable to pay for education etc.

4. “Socialist economies don’t work”

This is blatantly false. The Soviet Union, a socialist country, was the world’s second biggest economy and kept growing for the entirety of its existence. Most socialist countries were far wealthier then most capitalist countries. Most people in socialism had better access to healthcare, necessities of life, education and culture then in most capitalist countries. 10 million starve annually in capitalism and 3.6 billion live on less then $2/day.

5. “Socialism collapsed”

The reason why the Western capitalist countries were able to defeat the Socialist countries is complex, but the fact that Socialism was destroyed doesn’t prove that it is not a superior system when it comes to serving people’s needs.

Some basic Soviet GDP statistics:

CAN ANIMAL EXPLOITATION BE SOLVED IN CAPITALISM?

1. The Profit Motive

Capitalism is a system based on profit. Exploiting people and animals is highly profitable. It seems unlikely that a profit-driven system would stop doing something profitable.

2. Can we not pass legislation against animal exploitation?

Theoretically we could but in a capitalist system those who control the wealth control politics and legislation also. The liberal quest to “get money out of politics” in capitalism, a system driven by money, is utterly hopeless. For this to work we would need a democratic system genuinely controlled by the people i.e. Socialism.

3. Can we not boycott the meat industry to make it unprofitable?

Theoretically we could but such boycotts are rarely effective enough. Besides people are limited by their resources. In this current system animal products are cheap, easily available and backed by advertisement. Attempts at “ethical consumerism” within capitalism practically never work.

SOCIALISM AND ANIMAL LIBERATION

1. Why did historical socialist countries not abolish animal exploitation?

The reasons are numerous. For one, they were far too concerned with the horrible conditions of humans. In countries that used to have serious famine only years before and where all resources were needed to industrialize, develop the military and win the Cold War this was not a realistic option. Add to that the fact that the Animal Rights Movement was not as developed as it is today.

2. Should we stop eating animals now or only in socialism?

The more vegetarianism and veganism spreads now the easier the transformation will be in the future. The economic base of capitalism facilitates exploitation but spreading the ideas now can’t do any harm. Reducing meat consumption right now has health benefits, reduces global warming and exploitation (even if only a tiny bit) and shows a good Communist Example of ethical behavior.

3. Isn’t Vegetarianism/Veganism Classist?

Bourgeois-vegetarianism can be classist. However as a Communist I recognize that some people can’t afford to change their eating habits. Its not the fault of the poor but the capitalist system. We shouldn’t blame them but fight to change the system.

4. National Self-Determination

Indigenous people who practice traditional hunting or cattle raising shouldn’t be our main focus. They contribute very little to the problem of animal exploitation. We should be lenient towards them.

Particularly cruel practices could be banned immediately in socialism and this wouldn’t necessarily be much of a violation of national self-determination. Socialist China banned traditional forced marriages and foot-binding as feudal and barbaric practices. If some traditional practices are exceptionally cruel towards animals we can do the same.

Its worth pointing out that in many indigenous cultures and many religions animal consumption in general, or the consumption of specific animals like cows or pigs is considered unethical.

SOURCES:

10 million starve annually due to economic conditions
http://www.bhookh.com/hunger_facts.php

Global poverty
https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-global-poverty

56 billion animals are killed annually
http://www.animalequality.net/food

The world’s 3.6 billion poorest people are getting poorer
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/global-poverty-oxfam-world-economic-forum

Pigs Are Highly Social And Really Smart. So, Um, About Eating Them…
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/15/are-pigs-intelligent_n_7585582.html