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Title: Bolshevism: A Curse & Danger to the Workers
Author: Lee, H. W. (Henry William), 1865-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Second Edition._             PRICE TWOPENCE.





(_Editor of "Justice"; Author of "The First of May: International
Labour Day"; "A Socialist View of the Unemployed Question";
"Social-Democracy and the Zollverein"; "The Triumph of the Trust
under Free Trade"; "The Great Strike Movement of 1911"; and
"Why Starve? Britain's Food in War--and in Peace."_).



_February, 1919._


I have been asked to write a brief introduction to the pamphlet which
my old friend and comrade H.W. Lee has written on the undercurrent of
Bolshevist propaganda going on in this country, of which the recent
unauthorised strike outbreaks are outward and visible signs. I do this
gladly. Our comrade Lee, through being long associated with the
Social-Democratic Federation as its Secretary, and his editorship of
"Justice" during the last five years, has gained a knowledge of
International Socialist movements in their many phases which renders
his pamphlet both authoritative and reliable.

I hope the pamphlet will have a wide circulation in all the large
industrial centres, because I feel convinced that the majority of the
rank and file of the wage-earners do not and cannot know what it is
that our Bolshevists are striving for. They have not the faintest idea
in what direction some of them are being led. The Bolshevists in
certain industrial centres want to impose their own authority on the
rank and file of the workers, using catch-words for that purpose. If
they succeed in this direction they will set to work to undermine the
trade union movement of this country, and upset, instead of making use
of, the means we at present possess for improving our economic

Our minds go back to the Leeds "Convention," held in June, 1917. The
delegates at that Conference declared that they were in favour of
Workmen's and Soldiers' Councils being formed in all the large
industrial centres of the country. Nothing whatever came of it. But
the W.S.C.s then controlling the revolutionary undercurrent in Russia
were totally different from the Bolshevist tyranny of to-day, and many
of the delegates who formed the W.S.C.s in various parts of Russia
after the Revolution have been imprisoned or shot because they opposed
the domination of Lenin and Trotzky.

Last Tuesday I saw two friends whom I met in Petrograd in April, 1917,
and both of them absolutely confirm the statements made in the Press
about the hundreds of men and women who have been shot without any
trial or confirmation of the charges brought against them.

An article which appears in the "Nineteenth Century" of January,
written by Mr. Pierson, who was imprisoned in the Fortress of St.
Peter and St. Paul last October, after being arrested at the British
Embassy in Petrograd at the same time that Captain Cromie was shot,
also confirms the brutalities that are taking place constantly in
Petrograd and other parts of Russia.

A letter in the "Daily Express," written by Colonel John Ward, M.P.,
shows the terrible hell which Bolshevism is making, and the methods
that are being pursued by the followers of Lenin and Trotzky. If the
Soldiers' and Workmen's Councils had done their duty in the latter
part of April, 1917, after Lenin made his two hours' speech in the
Duma on April 17, they would have sent him back whence he came,
because it is a well-known fact that he was allowed to pass through
Germany with thirty other companions in a first-class saloon. I am
quite convinced that it was not the Russian people who were paying his
expenses during the time he was carrying on his pernicious propaganda
work in various parts of Russia. The downfall of the Soldiers' and
Workmen's Councils has been the consequence of their giving Lenin and
his thirty companions full freedom to spread their anarchical creed
and the wiping out of duly elected Assemblies.

The leading men of the Bolshevik movement in this country are out for
the overthrow of things as they are by physical force as soon as they
feel confident that they have a good number of the rank and file of
the wage-earners behind them. I want to warn the wage-earners--men and
women of my own class--against being associated with such people,
because I know that their tactics cannot remedy the economic and
industrial injustices under which the industrial workers are
suffering. They can be rectified by Social-Democratic education,
scientific organisation in the trade union movement, and by using
political powers to that end.

The methods adopted by the unauthorised shop stewards movement in the
different parts of the country must be rigorously suppressed, and
properly appointed shop stewards and works committees in all factories
and workshops must be elected instead. By that method industrial and
economic improvements can be brought about with the greatest benefit
and the least harm to all.

The pamphlet gives a very clear statement about what is taking place
in connection with the Bolshevist movement. That is the reason why I
trust that it will have a wide circulation in all the large industrial
centres of the country.

                                                WILL THORNE.

     February 13, 1919.


A Curse and a Danger to the Workers.

Russia has given most countries of the world a new word. "Bolshevism"
is to-day known universally, though its meaning is not by any means so
universal. In Russia it has a very definite and often striking
meaning, as many anti-Bolsheviks have known and are learning to their
cost. Elsewhere it has a wider, if looser, significance, and is
frequently employed to express or describe a number of things to which
one objects. Our own Press, for instance, flings "Bolshevik" and
"Bolshevism" at everybody and everything that it denounces, or against
whom and which it seeks to raise prejudice. In this respect it has
often overreached itself, for it is causing some to accept the Russian
Bolsheviks at their own estimation, because they know that many of the
things styled "Bolshevist" are not as bad as they are made out to be.

In Russia "Bolshevik" means majority, and "Menshevik" minority. Their
real significance was purely an internal one for the Russian
Social-Democratic Party. It is important to make this point clear, for
now and again we come across British supporters of and sympathisers
with the Russian Bolsheviks who take the name as a proof that the
Government of Lenin and Trotzky actually represents the majority of
the Russian people! Nothing is more contrary to the fact. The
Bolshevist "coup de rue" of November, 1917, was as complete a
usurpation of power as that of Louis Napoleon in 1851. True it was a
usurpation by professed Socialists, supposedly in the interests of the
Russian working class, but it was no less a usurpation and an attack
on democracy which only success in the interests of the Russian
working class could possibly justify. The forcible dissolution of the
Constituent Assembly by the Bolsheviks two months afterwards, because
the elections did not go in their favour, compelled them to take the
road to complete domination, and they are now unable to retrace their
steps, even if, as is reported, the more honest of them wish to do so.

Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and Social Revolutionaries.

The terms "Bolshevik" and "Menshevik" (majority and minority) arose
from the division in the Russian Social-Democracy which had shown
itself at the Congress held in London in 1903. The difference is
generally assumed to be one of tactics--of a readiness to co-operate
with other parties for certain definite objects under certain special
conditions ("Menshevik"), or of complete antagonism and opposition to
all other parties every time and all the time ("Bolshevik"). But the
difference lies deeper than that. "Bolshevism" is, in effect, the
Russian form of "impossibilism." From this the thorough-going
Social-Democrats of all countries have to suffer at times. By
divorcing the application of Socialist principles and measures from
the actual life of the day, and arguing and discussing "in vacuo,"
impossibilism drives many, who see the utter sterility of its results,
into the opposite direction, that of opportunism for the moment
without much thought for the future.

Until their "coup de rue" of November, 1917, the Russian Bolsheviks
regarded themselves as the extreme Left of the Russian Social-Democratic
Party. But latterly they have dropped the name Social-Democrat--so much
the better for Social-Democracy--and have adopted that of the "Russian
Communist Party"--so much the worse for Communism, for towards
Communism the Social-Democratic Commonwealths of the future are bound
to tend. "Bolshevism" to-day, where it is honest, is in the main a
revival of the Anarchism of Bakunine, together with a policy of armed
insurrection, and a seizure of political power which shall install the
"dictatorship of the proletariat." That is the dividing line between
the Bolsheviks and their Social-Democratic opponents, the Mensheviks,
and their far more numerous and powerful antagonists, the Social
Revolutionaries, who obtained an overwhelming majority in the
Constituent Assembly which the Bolsheviks dissolved by force. The
Social Revolutionaries seek the emancipation of the peasants and
workers by democratic means--the only safe and sure way--though they
were quite ready to use force for the overthrow of Tsardom, happily
effected in March, 1917. Unhappily, though, Bolshevik terrorism, with
its complete inability to carry out its promises of "peace and bread"
for the Russian people, and certain European financial interests are
together rehabilitating reaction in Russia, and the people and the
peasants may be driven to put up with some new autocratic régime in the
hope that it may shield them from the present terrorism and secure them
something to eat.

Bolshevist Intolerance.

Innumerable instances could be given of the bitter intolerance of the
honest Bolshevik fanatics towards all sections of the International
Socialist movement with which they have not agreed. Paul Axelrod, one
of the founders of Russian Social-Democracy, in a pamphlet published at
Zürich in 1915, entitled "The Crisis and the Duties of International
Social-Democracy," reproaches Lenin with seeking to carry into the
internal struggles of the Socialist Parties in Europe "specifically
Russian methods" which aim directly at creating troubles and divisions,
and branding without any distinction "nearly all the known and
respected bodies of International Social-Democracy as traitors and
deserters stranded in the bourgeois camp, treating these comrades,
whose international conscience and sentiments are above all suspicion,
as National Liberals, chauvinists, philistines, traitors, etc." Is this
the way in which to raise the enthusiasm of the workers for the cause
of Socialism? Is this the manner in which the spirit of self-sacrifice
can be roused in the masses? It savours far too much of the old
implacable bitterness of the Terrorists--reasonable and natural enough
in their secret conspiracies, where a fellow-conspirator might be a
police agent--but utterly out of place and mischievous when introduced
into open propaganda and organisation.

To this jaundiced outlook of the prominent Bolsheviks is added
ignorance of administration. Nearly all of them are refugees who have
spent many years of their lives outside of Russia. They have evolved
theories of Socialist policy from their inner consciousness without an
opportunity of putting them to practical tests--until now, when the
world is in the throes of a war crisis. And they attempt to apply
their theories of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in a vast
nation made up of various races in different stages of civilisation,
only just entering upon full capitalist development, where the
proletariat, the wage workers, constitute fewer than 20,000,000 out of
a total population of 180,000,000! And yet there are supporters of the
Bolsheviks in Britain who profess to be Marxists--more Marxist than
Marx, in fact--and who can countenance such a logical outrage on the
"materialist conception of history"!

Offensive and Defensive Wars.

Nothing better illustrates the unreality of some of Lenin's theories
than his attitude on national self-defence. In 1915 he and Zinovieff,
another well-known Bolshevik, published a pamphlet on "Socialism and
the War." One chapter dealt with "A War of Defence and a War of
Attack." It contains this passage:--"If to-morrow, for example,
Morocco were to go to war against France, the Indies against England,
and China against Russia, they would be wars of defence, just wars,
independently of any question of which began the war." Being "wars of
defence, just wars," the people would obviously be justified in taking
part in them from Lenin's point of view. Now let us see where the
logic of this contention will land us. Morocco, possibly because what
capitalism is there is foreign, may justly wage war against France;
but if France fights a war of defence against an aggressive attack by
Germany, she is engaged in an "imperialist war." Similarly, if India
rises against Britain, the people will be fighting a just war; but if
Britain supports France and Belgium against German imperialism, she is
carrying on an "imperialist war." Hence it follows that, if the
Central Powers had won the war, and Belgium had been subjugated by
Germany, Belgium would have been fully justified in fighting to
recover her independence; but in defending that independence which she
would have a right to recover, if deprived of it, she was taking part
in an "imperialist war "! Such is Leninist logic when brought down to
actual facts.

In short, Lenin, like Bakunine, loves ideas more than men. This may be
said of all the honest Bolshevist fanatics. There are others--many of
them. And even the genuine fanatics appear to have reached a stage of
mental "impossibilism" where the end not only justifies the means, but
any means must necessarily help to achieve the end. We know the
Bolsheviks were conveyed to Russia in April, 1917, via Germany in
sealed carriages with the consent of the German authorities. The Swiss
Bolshevik, Platten, arranged the affair with the German Government.
That the German Government expected that the Bolshevist mission to
Russia would be of advantage to Germany cannot be questioned;
otherwise the Bolshevist refugees would not have been allowed to go to
Petrograd through Germany. The Bolsheviks themselves knew that their
actions in the Russian Revolution would help Imperialist Germany, for
the "Berner Tagwacht" announced, after they had left Switzerland, that
they were "perfectly well aware that the German Government is only
permitting the transit of those persons because it believes that their
presence in Russia will strengthen the anti-war tendencies there." It
is the same with whatever money was supplied by Germany to the
Bolsheviks. It would all help to establish the "dictatorship of the

It is necessary to refer also to Leo Trotzky. Some who are convinced
of Lenin's honesty of purpose do not hold the same view of Trotzky.
Lenin is the implacable theorist in whose nostrils compromise of any
sort stinks. Trotzky is not of that character. He is much more
adaptable. And he has changed opinions on war issues more than once
during the war. In the autumn of 1914 or the beginning of 1915,
Trotzky wrote a brilliant pamphlet, "Der Krieg und die Internationale"
("The War and the International"). In that pamphlet he boldly declared
that the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a necessity.
While ridiculing defensive wars, he nevertheless wrote: "The more
obstinate the resistance of France--and now, truly, it is her duty to
protect her territory and her independence against the German
attack--the more surely does she hold, and will hold, the German army
on the Western front." Again: "The victory of Germany over France--a
very regrettable strategic necessity in the opinion of German
Social-Democracy--would signify first of all not merely the defeat of
the permanent army under a democratic republican régime, but the
victory of the feudal and monarchical constitution over the
democratic and republican constitution." Thus wrote Trotzky while
still a Social-Democrat, before he became a Bolshevist dictator. How,
then, can he denounce France for fighting an "imperialist war," or
Britain for helping her to prevent a "victory of the feudal and
monarchical constitution over the democratic and republican

The "Dictatorship of the Proletariat."

The "dictatorship of the proletariat" appeals to Trotzky, because he
has become virtually the dictator of the proletariat and everything
else in Russia within the power of the "Red Guards" and his Chinese
battalions. These Chinese battalions, recruited from Chinese labourers
employed behind the military lines while Russia was in the war, may be
responsible for some of the "executions" which have taken place. The
Bolshevist emissary, Maxim Litvinoff, pooh-poohs all stories of
massacres. It is generally the dregs of the Chinese population who are
recruited for labour gangs abroad; and if "removals" of
"counter-revolutionaries" can be accomplished by Chinese battalions,
the Bolsheviks can then aver that they have not had a hand in it!
Since the acceptance of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty because Russia could
fight no longer, Trotzky has not only talked of raising Bolshevik
armies, but has succeeded in raising them and officering them by
officers of the old Tsarist régime. What Trotzky would not do against
the German armies he is quite prepared to do against those portions of
Russia that have taken advantage of the self-determination granted by
the Bolshevist Administration. Perhaps the peculiar Bolshevist
philosophy regarding wars of defence is also to apply to neighbouring
States if they do not happen to be strong militarily. You must not
prevent the "self-determination" of any portion of an existing State,
but you may attack it when "self-determined," in the interests of the
"international Social Revolution" and the "dictatorship of the
proletariat." That sort of action, when undertaken by an autocracy, is
usually described as an act of imperialist aggression in order to
divert attention from internal difficulties; and Bolshevism in Russia
is an autocracy--a dictatorship not of the proletariat, but over the
proletariat. It cannot possibly be anything else.

The Russian Revolution of March, 1917, was in many respects similar to
the French Revolution of 1789. It brought the downfall of absolute
monarchy. It was not so bourgeois in character as the French
Revolution, because there was a definite proletarian class in Russia,
though small in comparison with its immense population, and capitalist
production was established. But the Russian Revolution had this
disadvantage compared with the French Revolution--there was
practically no class able to take over the administration in the
interests of the Revolution as with the French; and if that was so
when certain bourgeois elements were with the Revolution, how much
less of administrative knowledge would there be in a Bolshevist
Government over millions of ignorant workers and peasants accustomed
only to a despotic régime, whose "Commissaries" are mainly refugees,
most of whom have lost all real touch with Russian internal affairs?

Bolshevist Inquisition.

There is not the slightest need to accept the capitalist Press of this
or any other country as authoritative on the present condition of
things in Russia. Consult the Bolshevist organs themselves,
particularly the "Izvestya" and "Pravda." They give quite enough
evidence to prove what terrorism prevails, how all freedom of the
Press, speech and public meeting is ruthlessly suppressed. The
following is from "Pravda" of October 8 last:--

    "The absence of the necessary restraint makes one feel appalled
    at the 'instruction' issued by the All-Russian Extraordinary
    Commission to 'All Provincial Extraordinary Commissions,' which
    says: 'The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission is perfectly
    independent in its work, carrying out house searches, arrests,
    executions, of which it _afterwards_ reports to the Council of
    the People's Commissaries and to the Central Executive Council.'
    Further, the Provincial and District Extraordinary Commissions
    'are independent in their activities, and when called upon by
    the local Executive Council present a report of their work.' In
    so far as house searches and arrests are concerned, a report
    made _afterwards_ may result in putting right irregularities
    committed owing to lack of restraint. The same cannot be said of
    executions.... It can also be seen from the 'instruction' that
    personal safety is to a certain extent guaranteed only to
    members of the Government, of the Central Council and of the
    local Executive Committees. With the exception of these few
    persons, all members of the local Committees of the [Bolshevist]
    Party, of the Control Committees, and of the Executive Committee
    of the Party may be shot at any time by the decision of any
    Extraordinary Commission of a small district town if they happen
    to be on its territory, and a report of that made _afterwards_."

"Vorwärts," quoting from "Pravda," says that the Bolshevist organ
reports that 13,764 persons have been executed within the last three

As regards the internal economic situation in Russia under Bolshevist
rule, a Russian workman, whose experience has not been confined to
Petrograd and Moscow, makes the following statement in the
"Social-Demokraten" of Stockholm:--

    "The output of the factories has decreased by 80 per cent.,
    notwithstanding that the Revolutionary Committees stimulate
    production with the revolver. The condition of the railways is
    worse than ever. All the industrial workmen are against the
    Bolsheviks, and the same is the case with the peasants. The
    so-called 'Committees of the Poor' are drawn from the small
    number of peasants who sought employment in the factories during
    the war and have now returned to the country. The only
    supporters of the Bolsheviks, apart from the Letts and the
    Chinese, are those belonging to their own official caste. The
    European Press has rather understated than exaggerated the Red

As regards food conditions,[1] the Bolshevist Administration seems to
be thorough and precise in the issue of food-cards of all
descriptions, according to the four categories into which the
population is divided. More food-cards, in fact, appear to have been
issued to the population of Moscow than the population itself, which
was 1,694,971 last April. Restaurants, dining-rooms, etc., are fully
supplied with supplementary food-cards. But what of supplies? They
are, after all, the main thing. Translated into English money and
weight, the prices last September were as follows: Potatoes, 7-1/2d. a
lb.; fresh cabbage, 7d. a lb.; fish (supply diminishing), pickled
herrings from 1s. 9d. to 3s. 3d. a lb.; smoked herrings, from 2s. 4d.
to 4s. each; meat, 7s. 7d. a lb.; pork, 12s. 8d. a lb.; boiled
sausage, 9s. 3d. a lb.; smoked sausage, 11s. 10d. a lb.; milk, of
which there was little, was 2s. 6d. a bottle; cream butter, 25s. 3d. a
lb.; lump sugar, 25s. 3d. a lb. In Petrograd meat was from 9s. 7d. a
lb.; veal, 11s. a lb.; pork, 12s. 7d. a lb.; mutton, 10s. 1d. a lb.
Fish, supplies of which were limited, were about the same prices as at
Moscow. The figures of municipal bread-baking in Petrograd for last
April, May and June were 328,128, 262,075 and 185,222 puds
respectively. A pud is 36 lbs. This indicates a most serious
reduction. According to rations on the bread-cards, which are 3/8 lb.
per day, with the same amount for supplementary cards for workers'
categories, and 1/8 lb. a day per child, the monthly supply for
Petrograd should be 792,000 puds.

In October reports from Tambov, Viatka, Vladimir, Tula and Saratov
indicate that, though supplies of all kinds of grain were fairly good,
the disorganisation of transport was so great that the larger part of
those supplies remained where they were. A number of delegates were
sent to Saratov to obtain 30,000 puds of breadstuffs for twenty-five
workmen's organisations in Moscow. They only succeeded in obtaining
3,000 puds, and they complained most bitterly of "bureaucracy" at the
hands of the Saratov Provincial Food Committee, who kept them waiting
a very long time and finally passed them on to a local Committee who
declined to do anything. They demanded that pressure should be brought
to bear on the Provincial Committee to make them disgorge part of
their large reserves for the starving centre.

Russian Co-operative Societies.

Recently reports and articles have been appearing in certain of the
Labour and capitalist Press favourable to the Bolsheviks, notably the
"Labour Leader," concerning the co-operative movement in Russia. It is
alleged that the growth of the co-operative movement there is evidence
that the Bolshevist Government is really and seriously building up a
new Socialist society despite the grave difficulties within and the
antagonism from without. It is true that the co-operative movement is
going ahead in Russia, but it is not because of, but in spite of,
Bolshevism. The co-operative movement in Russia is not the product of
the Bolshevist Government; it existed and progressed under Tsardom.
The help which the co-operative societies rendered to the Russian
people during the war is beyond all dispute. The majority of the
co-operators in the area under Bolshevist domination are forced to
work with the Bolshevist Soviets in order to save their societies from
dissolution. The co-operative societies in Siberia, representing two
million affiliated families, a population of about ten millions, have
been the backbone of the opposition to the Bolshevist Government east
of the Urals.

Bolshevism in Russia is, in fact, a revival of the Anarchism of
Bakunine, tinged with certain Marxist theories which the Bolshevik
refugees have gathered during their numerous sojourns abroad. It is a
worship of the Revolution to which everything must be sacrificed. In
its adoration of the Goddess of Liberty it is willing-to crush the
freedom of human beings. The change from Tsardom to Bolshevism is, to
use Trotzky's cynical phrase, "the turn of the wheel."

The Bolshevist Government has now dominated the central portion of
European Russia for more than a twelvemonth. It bases its demand for
general recognition on the fact that it has lasted a year without
being overturned, and contends that that proves it has the support of
"Soviet" Russia. The brief statement of internal conditions at Moscow
and Petrograd made above suggests that the reports of terrible food
shortage in those great cities, which come from independent sources,
are not entirely destitute of foundation. And yet the apologists of
the Bolsheviks here assure us that in Russia at the present time we
have a "Socialist Republic of a very high order"!

These facts require to be made thoroughly well known among the working
classes of these islands. The idea is being assiduously put about,
more subterraneously than openly, that there is now established in
Russia a genuine Socialist Republic, or, at all events, a real and
conscious attempt on the part of the workers and peasants of Russia to
establish such a Republic. Given this idea, there is every reason for
a popular agitation to prevent anything being done by the British
Government and its allies to hamper that Socialist Republic in the
early stages of its development. Unfortunately, the utter incapacity
of the recent and present Coalition to come to any definite policy
regarding Russia, and the inclination of some of its members to back
the reactionists, while standing aloof from the real democratic forces
in Russia which support the Constituent Assembly, play completely into
the hands of the Bolsheviks of Russia and their sympathisers here.
Whatever Bolshevist undercurrents there are in the present reckless
strike movements in Glasgow, Belfast and elsewhere are therefore due
in great part to the Governments of Mr. Lloyd George. Nevertheless it
behoves the working class of these islands to take cognisance of the
facts concerning Russia, for they will enable them to realise clearly
the grave mischief that these "unauthorised" strikes are doing, more
to their own class and the country generally than to the capitalists
against whom the efforts of the majority of the strikers are directed.

Bolshevism on the Clyde.

The Clyde is the centre of Bolshevism in Britain, though the spirit of
it is in other parts also. But on the Clyde a number of very
determined and exceedingly well meaning, but "heady," Socialists of
the S.L.P. "impossibilist" type have influenced by sheer persistence a
good many others who do not understand whither they are being led.
Here, again, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" means the dictation
of the proletariat by these "impossibilists," in order to bring
capitalist industry to its knees. For that purpose strikes are to be
brought about as frequently as possible on no matter what pretext,
provided that pretext calls out enough "hands" to paralyse capitalist
industry. It may be increased wages one day, shorter hours the next,
shop conditions the day after, anything that will cause men to "down

The idea, obviously, is to reduce industry to such a state of chaos
that it becomes absolutely unprofitable to the employers, and thus it
will be easier for the shop committees to take over the "control of
industry" by Soviets from which all "bourgeois" and
"counter-revolutionaries" shall be excluded. Meanwhile, when the
strikes have reached a certain point, the demand shall be made for
Government intervention, which, if granted under vague threats of
terrible things to come, will redound to the power and credit of the
Bolshevist leaders; and if not, and disturbances take place, then the
leaders will be arrested, the revolutionary fires will be lighted on
the Clyde, and will spread over the whole country; the leaders in
question will be released from gaol by enthusiastic "revolutionary"
crowds; and then will follow a glorified transformation scene as in a
pantomime, with the heroes bathed in gorgeous "revolutionary"
lime-light effects. I should not write in this fashion did I not know
that this idea has influenced a few of the most single-minded and
devoted Socialists on the Clyde, and we can only regret that such
really noble spirits should have been unable to keep their heads in
the greatest crisis in the world's history.

The "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" in Operation.

The battle cry of the Russian Bolsheviks and their sympathisers and
would-be imitators elsewhere is the "dictatorship of the proletariat."
Let us consider what that means. Dictatorship means despotism, and
whether it is that of a Tsar or a Kaiser, an oligarchy or a Bolshevik
administration, it is despotism--nothing more and nothing less.
Impatience with the slowness of the mass of the people is only to be
expected in all who see what human existence could be made on this
planet, how enjoyable and pleasurable life might be made by light and
pleasant labour for all, with the vast powers which man now possesses
over Nature. I don't suppose there is a single Socialist who has spent
twenty years of his or her life in the cause of International
Social-Democracy who has not at times wished that the Social
Revolution could be quickly brought about by some benevolent
despotism. That a similar train of thought should have entered the
minds of Russian refugees, driven from a land where political
democracy in any form appeared almost hopeless of achievement, is only
natural, and equally natural that it should have been pursued to its
abstract logical conclusion, inasmuch as, unlike ourselves, they were
not working actually amongst the people day in and day out to
understand how impossible of realisation such a wish must be.
Impatience with the mass--however the Mass may be worshipped--is at
the bottom of the idea of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." They
must be emancipated in spite of themselves. Liberty and democracy can
come afterwards when the Socialist dictators have transformed
capitalist society into the Socialist State. During that
transformation the mass must obey the minority which has seized power;
it must accept as right and just what that minority decrees; it must
abandon liberty of speech and the Press, or at least it must refuse
those liberties to all who do not agree with the actions of the
minority in power. And if the mass don't like it, well----! Are these
not precisely the principles on which Lenin and Trotzky are striving
to create this "Socialist Republic of a very high order"? And are they
not revealed in the attempts of a small minority to impose their will
on the majority during our own strike influenza? Often is it
observable that those who most vehemently denounce the slightest
exercise of power in others have not the faintest objection to using
it ruthlessly themselves. Bolshevism, then, is another phase, and
anything but a pleasant phase, of Utopian Socialism, whatever use of
the name of Karl Marx be made in connection with its advocacy.

The Blind Samson.

The wage-earners constitute by far the largest section of the
community. Their votes, now more than ever, can do much to control the
administration of the country if they will take the trouble to
exercise that control in the direction of securing the thorough
democratisation of the State, so that it may be made ready to organise
the industries of the nation for the common good. The paralysis of
industry will hurt the capitalist employers unquestionably, but it
will certainly not benefit the workers. Blind Samson damaged the
Philistines when he pulled down their temple; but he did not come out
unscathed--quite the contrary. The Social Revolution--i.e., the change
from capitalist production for profit to social production for
use--cannot be made with rose-water; but that is no reason why there
should be blood-letting just for the fun of seeing if red corpuscles
are present in sufficient quantity.

Let them be what they may, the trade unions are the only form of
working-class organisation to-day which can secure for the workers a
decent standard of existence under capitalist conditions of industry.
Anything which tends to weaken them and reduce their influence,
whether in the interests of the employers or for the supposed
advancement of r-r-r-revolutionary proletarian principles, whatever
they may be, will be harmful to the workers. It is for the workers
themselves to see that their trade unions shall be the means of
securing something more than higher wages or even shorter hours of
labour. War conditions have shown what a will-o'-the-wisp are mere
increases of pay; and short hours of labour such as could easily be
arranged under collective organisation of industry, with all the
economies of effort which co-operation would effect, cannot be secured
under capitalism. That surely should be obvious to all who call
themselves Socialists and who have even a passing acquaintance with
economics; otherwise, why the necessity of the Co-operative
Commonwealth? Socialist policy towards the trade unions should be, in
short, not their capture for political purposes, nor their upset for
Bolshevist phantasies, but one of educating the trade unionists. It is
only along that line that the Social-Democratic movement can make real
and steady progress.

The policy of the strike for anything and everything is not only
anti-social; it is anti-Socialist. Writing on the strike outbreak of
1911,[2] I said: "The mass strike is rarely effective, save in a
negative fashion. It is successful mostly when used against some
particular object or for some definite purpose of the moment. It can
be used to break an objectionable agreement; it may prevent the
putting into force of an unpopular law, or the passing of some
tyrannical measure; it may check an attempt to suppress popular
liberties, such as they are; and it may prove the best possible means
of preventing war between two countries, if action in that direction
be taken equally in both countries. But as _the_ means for the
overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of the
Socialist Republic it is useless. Those who rely upon the general
strike as _the_ means for the realisation of Social-Democracy are like
the ancient Gauls, of whom it is said that they shook all States and
founded none."

Sporadic and Lightning Strikes Anti-Social and Anti-Socialist.

What applied to the strike movement of 1911 applies with even greater
force to the present strike ebullitions, in which the presence of
Russian Bolsheviks is to be noted. This is all in accordance with the
Bolshevist plan of "world revolution" for which roubles are being
plentifully furnished, mainly through agents in Sweden. The prevailing
idea is to pull down bourgeois society, no matter what the
consequences. If conditions generally in the countries of Europe under
capitalism to-day were like what they were here a century ago, coupled
with an absolute monarchical tyranny such as that which existed until
recently in Russia, then there might be something to be said for the
destruction of bourgeois society by any means that would bring it
down. Nothing under such conditions could be worse for the mass of the
people. But with the destruction of the State in these islands would
go the trade unions built up by years of solid labour and sacrifice,
the co-operative societies, just now beginning to take a wider outlook
on things than mere "divi." hunting, and the democratic political
institutions of which the people can make far more use than they do
when they choose to exercise their intelligence and bestir their
energies. Then the increasingly complicated nature of production,
distribution and exchange has also to be considered. A piece of grit
will often throw elaborate and delicate machinery out of gear, but we
do not regard it as a revolutionary agent on that account. The control
of a few engineering workshops by shop stewards, puffed out with
vanity and a "little brief authority," will not provide the food
necessary to feed the people of these islands. We have, too, an
indication of the spirit of liberty with which they are animated in
the massed picketing at Glasgow, not against blacklegs and
non-unionists, but against fellow trade unionists who refused to aid
"unauthorised strikes."

I have said that these "down tools" outbursts are anti-Socialist. They
are anti-Socialist because they are anarchical. They may pull down,
but they cannot build up. Socialism and Socialists have suffered
enough during the war because of the freaks and cranks that the war
discovered among us, and the greater number of the same genus who now
profess to be Socialists without understanding much, if anything,
about the Socialist movement. We do not want further prejudice raised
against us by attempts to connect us with anarchical violence,
hooliganism and looting. Nothing for the benefit of the people can
possibly come out of what is now going on. All it will do is to help
reaction, and make even the majority of the working class ready to
acquiesce in a mild military dictatorship as a lesser evil than
Bolshevist tyranny and violence. And there are some British Generals
who are popular, and who are not merely militarists!

There is no royal road to the Social Revolution. The steady and
patient work of Socialist propaganda and organisation together with
the pressing forward of thorough-going collectivist proposals for the
ownership and control of industry for the common good, and the
imagination to take advantage of everything that will help forward the
great change from capitalist production for profit to Socialist
production for use--those are the lines we must follow. All the
imaginary shortcuts of the impatient ones, which lead to anarchical
deserts or reactionary morasses, serve only to retard real
Social-Democratic progress.


[1] Comrade "R.," who has written much for "Justice" on the food
question abroad, has supplied these particulars.--H.W.L.

[2] "The Great Strike Movement of 1911, and Its Lessons."

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