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as it vanishes we can watch the Bolshevik spectrum in this country burst into a crimson cloud, partly because its Russian source is settling, but mainly because it cannot last in the American atmosphere.
Bolshevism is the rebellious child of Socialism. Both agree about the communist Atlantis of industrial society, and both believe that the only instrument for its realization is the labor movement. Their quarrel is in the use of this instrument. To Bolshevism, labor is a revolutionary means; to historic socialism, it has become an educational agency; and both fall back on Marx.
The publication of Marx's "Das Kapital" coincided with the rise of contemporary European nationalism, and the socialist movement adjusted itself to the inevitable by developing into nothing more insurgent than the Social Democracy. It was this long period of educational socialism, from the foundation of the German Empire to the World War, which gradually permeated the German trades-union movement, slowly spreading throughout European labor. It was only in the beginning of this century that its left wing began to stir, and from the very start the radical revolt within the Social Democracy was under the relentless and consummate leadership of Lenine.
The Russian origin of Bolshevism was but natural. Revolution implies civil war, the weapon of the Terror; and the Terror had no terrors for the Russian revolutionaries. With a selfless and fantastic courage which defies our smug imagination they braved one of the most degenerate autocracies in history. Lenine himself lived most of his life in a sort of idealistic
underworld of bitter party dialectics, "underground" activities, fanatic devotees, and agents-provocateurs. As early as 1894 he saw that the Russian people were too agrarian, too vast, too "dark" to be educable into Socialism. Before his day the Russian revolutionaries were mainly "populists." They "went to the people" and slaved to enlighten them into revolt. The "dark people" accepted with mystical inertia all this heroic devotion, which invariably led to exile, prison, or death. What Russia needed, Lenine began to advocate in 1898, was not democratic evolution, but a professional revolution. And so he set himself the task of transforming the Russian Social Democratic party-and International Socialism-into a "scientific instrument of revolution."
Lenine led the first organized revolt in the Socialist Congress in London in 1903. At least there the Bolshevik wing of the Second International began to molt. The abortive Russian revolution of 1905-06, which was mainly under the leadership of the Social Democrats, hastened the leftwing movement. In 1912 the Bolsheviks virtually broke away from the socialists. In 1914 they federated with the socialist groups which objected to the war. The complete break came in 1917, when the Social Democrats were satisfied with the democratic revolution of Kerensky, while the Bolsheviks pressed on to their "maximum" demand-the proletarian dictatorship. On November 7, 1917, the Bolsheviks captured the Russian state, and soon developed into the astutest oligarchy in modern history. In 1918 the Bolsheviks "purified" their party and renamed it the Communist party. By 1919 the pro
letarian dictatorship was in full swing, with the communist oligarchy as the proletarians and Lenine in the dictatorship, which he grasped to advance his famous "program." It is this program, called “Leninism," whose propaganda is the sole function of the Third International in Moscow, with which our American Communist party is affiliated.
To Lenine the socialist revolution is not a conflagration, but an enlightened arson. And accordingly his program is a series of incendiary "steps" on whose ruins he would build the "scientific" socialist society. His first dogma is the training of a professional, full-time, revolutionary expert group, organized into the Jacobin clubs of the Communist party, the élite of the "enlightened militant minority." While the socialists, like all good missionaries, welcome converts, the Communists, like a religious order, stiffen entrance with revolutionary asceticism. This small, compact, revolutionary Montagnard guard then proceeds to revolutionize the working class into "class-conscious" industrial guilds. When the nation is sufficiently speckled with these revolutionary labor syndicates (the Soviets), the communist minority "captures" the state and establishes the proletarian dictatorship, which must hold on to power by all means until the people become "habituated" to socialist existence. Finally, the state "withers away" into "utopian communism,”-anarchism, -in which the citizen is trained to economic liberty and from sheer social pressure eschews economic license. This is the famous Lenine program. Contemporary Russia is by no means becoming "habituated" to communism, but to state capitalism, the
petty trader, the foreign investor, and the small peasant proprietor. Yet it is unquestionably true that Lenine read Russia far better than the Social Democrats. For his time and place he was madly right. And he was able to retreat sufficiently within his "program" to save his country from Chinafication by the great powers and to enable it to skip the savageries of the capitalist frontiersman. None the less, Leninism sounds absurd to us. And this sense of bizarre absurdity which we feel toward it is but an instinctive indication of the profound difference between Russia and America. When Lenine hurled Jovian invectives against the counter-revolutionaries, he could enforce his maledictions against their by no means figmentary opposition; but when the American communists aped his very diction in this country against our "counter-revolutionary yellow" socialists, they were nonsensical, for there was no revolution anywhere in sight, if one disregards the petty revolutionary behavior of Attorney-General Palmer in jailing them without legal warrant. In fact, they found it necessary to fight Palmer and later on Daugherty on the ground of constitutional privilege; they had to hire "bourgeois" lawyers to defend them; and they had to appeal to the liberalism of the despised "bourgeois liberals" to furnish their bail.
In America we lack the first prerequisite for the communist revolution. American labor never has been, and is now less than ever, socialistic. Lenine, in his occasional notes and comments on the American situation, indicated that this country was a good deal of a revolutionary conundrum to him, and
For our socialist move
ment, far from being the carrier of proletarian class-consciousness, actually played the paradoxical rôle of a socialist antitoxin in American labor. The American Federation of Labor grew in anti-socialist trades-unionism in direct proportion to its successful struggle against its socialist opposition, which under one name or another partook in its parliamentary proceedings for almost forty years. During the third quarter of the last century the red and black clouds of European socialism and anarchism drifted over to this country, but the rough winds of our industrial frontier soon dispelled them. In 1872 Marx tried to save the First International from anarchist fratricide by transferring its seat from London to New York. But in the American atmosphere its red heart stopped beating altogether in Philadelphia in 1876. It was then that the genius of Samuel Gompers perceived that the only way to curb the young and callous giant of American capital was by ever-vigilant guerrilla warfare. He helped to organize the strictly autonomous craft unions, which forged ahead during the next half-century on a purely catch-ascatch-can basis. Their weapons were the economic sniping of the strike and "non-partizan political action." They aimed to fill their dinner-pail, to wrest a ray of sunlight from the workday, and to stem the inroads of automatic machinery on their skill. Undoubtedly this archaic Gompers method is passing. It is too primitive and unconcerted to balance the rights of labor in our complex industrial civilization. But instead of going socialist, the progressive wing of American labor is molting into trade-union capitalism.
With the instinct of self-preservation it is adapting itself to our inevitable imperial career. Daily its struggle is becoming less revolutionary and more competitive. Hence arises what one might call the new economic policy of American labor. American labor. Even now it could
not very well "throw off its chains," for already these chains are worth close to one billion dollars in capital investment and business enterprise.
Accordingly, American labor as a whole was no more conductive to the lightning of the Bolshevik revolution than the American trust. But by 1919 this lightning did strike its logical center of attraction in this countrythe Socialist party. It rent the party. The Bolshevik section bolted with 30,000 of its 35,000 members. It tore away not as a party, but as a mob; while the old Socialist party remained a mere skeleton, retaining its executive committee, a socialist seminary in the Rand School of Social Science, an excellent labor library, and a dwindling daily newspaper, since dead and resurrected into a weekly.
The American Bolsheviks then proceeded to draft the left-wing manifesto, declaring themselves the "enlightened militant minority," whose function it was "to teach, propagate and agitate for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism through a proletarian dictatorship." They adopted the Lenine program in its entirety. During 1919 this left wing of the Socialist party split into several dissident groups, but in September of that year it managed to form the Communist party of America and immediately proceeded to organize "workers' councils." It aped the ideology of the Soviet dictatorship with incredibly naïve
irrelevance to American life. Soon afterward the Palmer raids scared the party underground.
It was during the next two years in the catacombs of American labor that the Communist party split into erratic revolutionary sects. Then arose the Proletarian party, one of whose planks was to attack religion; then the United Communists; then the committee of the Third International, of about forty members, who issued such fantastic pronunciamentos that they were soon satirized out of existence; then the Workers' Council, whose language was so scurrilous that it soon collapsed of neurasthenic bitterness; the African Blood Brotherhood, a sort of Marcus Garvey communist club; the Workers' League; the American Labor Alliance; the United Toilers; the Rummagers' the Rummagers' League, which "rummaged the field of history and science to develop the keenest intellect possible" for revolutionary strategy. It would be unfair to poke undue fun at these pseudoJacobin clubs of cruelly maladjusted and exploited workers.
In December, 1921, the American Communist party reorganized into the open Workers' party, into which some of the other communist groupings merged at the direct order of the Third International in Moscow. The Workers' party adopted in great detail the Lenine program. It is now our only communist organization, with the exception of a small and unorganized faction in the I. W. W. To-day the Workers' party maintains national headquarters in Chicago and district offices in other large industrial centers. It issues the "Daily Worker" and
the "Workers' Monthly." The "Daily Worker" is an incredibly inaccurate, misinterpretative, and scurrilous sheet. Its references to American labor leaders, to the socialists and to every one else who is not in complete accord with it, are not merely malignant, but sometimes elaborately lascivious. The "Workers' Monthly," on the other hand, is a fair digest of the international revolutionary labor movement and its reflection in this country. The party also has about a dozen affiliated foreign-language publications, a propaganda bureau for permanent auto-suggestion, and a completely unreliable research division. Far from hiding its Moscow affiliation, it glories in it, for the simple reason that its membership in the Third International is the only stock in which the radical worker might invest. The party has a membership of approximately 18,000 of whom no more than 1500 are English-speaking. The largest constituent group are about 9000 Finns. The rest are fairly proportionate to our immigrant population, with possibly a slightly larger percentage of Russian Jewish workers, who have a fine revolutionary tradition against czardom.
In its form of organization the Workers' party is an exact replica of its Russian counterpart. The Russian Communist party is a highly disciplined political order, of ascetic revolutionary devotion, under the complete dominance of an inner machine of old and tried revolutionary intellectuals. There is no pretense of democratic management, and the inner college issues encyclicals and bulls which are unquestioningly followed at the risk of excommunication. The central executive committee of the
Workers' party strictly follows this Jesuitical procedure. Every so and so often the central executive committee "orders" its members to pursue certain "tactics" against "the reactionary officialdom in American labor." To disobey these essentially contradictory orders is defined as "party treason." These "orders" invariably direct "the left-wingers" in the trades-unions at one and the same time to "stay within their unions" while jeopardizing their membership by talk against the union leaders. Those who refuse are variously disciplined or expelled in a technical Bolshevik vocabulary, which is curious reading to the student of American labor.
With the exception of William Z. Foster, the leaders of the party are virtually unknown to American labor, for the simple reason that the old socialist leaders-men like Debs, Berger, and Hillquit-did not go with them in 1919. For a while the Third International had a vocational adviser to the party in the person of John Pepper, a pseudonym for a member of Bela Kun's short-lived Hungarian government. Comrade Pepper wrote copiously "interpretative" articles on American labor, which he diagnosed as profoundly revolutionary in spirit; on the Ku Klux Klan, which he diagnosed as the American White Terror; on the American Legion, which he diagnosed as corresponding strictly to fascismo; and on the Third Party movement, which he diagnosed as a Spartacan revolt. These analogies he meant to be taken absolutely literally, and his imitation of Lenine's style, cold, learned, and impersonal, made his analyses extremely humorous reading. Pepper dominated the party
from early 1922 to late 1923, and almost wrecked it with his fantasies. Finally, his American comrades complained to Moscow, and he was recalled. His unofficial successor is Alexander Bittelman, a far more intelligent man, who speaks on the European revolutionary movement with authority and on the American situation no more allegorically than is mandatory on a Bolshevik in good standing.
Since the party is not really an economic or political, but purely a propaganda, organization, most of its leaders are not "proletarians," but journalists. The editor of the "Workers' Monthly" is Earl R. Browder. He is exceptionally well informed and widely self-educated. His native good sense reflects itself in his publication, and he manages to live in a world of greater reality than most of his comrades by the simple device of kindly humor. The leading editor of the "Daily Worker," Louis J. Engdahl, on the other hand, lives entirely in a world of fiction.
But the great catch of the Workers' party was William Z. Foster in 1921. Foster is by all odds the most outstanding, and was until his communist entanglement the most important, radical in American labor. A New England Yankee, he was born in the very year in which Gompers became President of the American Federation of Labor, forty-three years ago. first entered the labor movement as a socialist, while a street-car conductor in New York City. Then he became a settler on government land in the West. But agriculture proved too tame for his arduous spirit, and he enlisted as a sailor before the mast of old square-rigged ships, visiting every