Category Archives: History

Leon Trotsky: The Workers’ Militia And Its Opponents (1934)

As we’ve been going through the always inspiring and illuminating writings of Bolshevik revolutionary and founder of the Red Army Leon Trotsky searching for works that can illustrate the need for multiracial union-based workers defense squads to beat back the rising tide of fascism in the US, we have been learning and re-learning so much that it is amazing.  So many of the 1930s-era arguments against the creation of a workers militia to smash fascism are being repeated almost word-for-word every day on Twitter!  We know that in the USA, thanks to advertising and television and its inducement of short-attention-spans in way too many workers here, the idea that something written about political events of 70 years ago could remain relevant in 2017 seems absurd.  You want “NEW!” and “IMPROVED!” political science, right?  But just as the works of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein are still considered to be among the finest examples of scientific writing on their subjects to date, so it goes with political science.  And as it is absolutely necessary for a doctor or a physicist to study the history of developments in her field of expertise in order to more fully understand the modern approaches and discoveries, in political science we can obtain a wealth of vitally important information from the writings of the top revolutionaries of the past two centuries and apply that information directly to today’s political challenges.  It may come as a surprise, but the fundamental class structure of a capitalist state hasn’t changed much in the past 175 years or so: we still have the working class majority, a smaller petit-bourgeoisie (middle class small business owners) and a relatively tiny capitalist class to whom the majority of the national wealth is funneled year after year.  The actors change but the roles do not; petit-bourgeois politicians and businesspeople have the same complaints and roles in 2017 as they had in 1917 – with relatively minor differences in scenery and plot.  It’s like seeing a modern production of a Mozart opera, in which the clothing of the 1700s is replaced by hip-hop fashion: it looks very different but the music and lyrics remain the same.  And we are sure that our very perceptive readers will find themselves surprised to hear Trotsky, writing in 1934 (in this case) making incisive comments which, if the names of the old politicians were replaced with current US politicians, you would imagine the article was written last week.

In political science, the famous warning that “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” carries full force.  We assure those of you who laugh at us for using the events of 1934 as a warning in 2017 that you ignore these works at your peril.  The options for modern politicians – working class, petit-bourgeois and bourgeois – have NOT changed in the past century.  If the working class does not overthrow capitalism in 2017, and the fascists are allowed to grow, the result will be largely the same as what occurred in Germany in 1933.  The USA has a whole slew of would-be Hitlers jockeying to reprise his role in the 2017 production of “The Collapse of Bourgeois Democracy”.  The working class has its own contingent of feckless, class-collaborationist fake-socialists and pro-capitalist trade union “leaders” eager to show what they can bring to the roles of Scheidemann and Noske.  Today’s anarchists have their Bakunins, Berkmans, Makhnos and Goldmans; and the revolutionary socialists have their own up-and-coming Stalins, Kollontais, Lenins, Maos, Guevaras, and Trotskys.  All of these actors will be vying for the hearts and minds of the masses of workers, without whom there will be no play. 

“History repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” We do not intend to fall into the same traps that our ancestors fell into; more than that – we do not intend to lead YOU into those same traps YOUR ancestors fell into!   So that we do not do so, we must study the development of the various class forces in the past who were faced with essentially the same collapse of bourgeois democracy and essentially the same rise of fascism we are facing today around the capitalist world.  In Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s the Communist Party refused to make a united front with the Social Democrats and form armed workers brigades capable of smashing Hitler’s gangs, paving the way for the rise of Nazi Germany.  Fascism then rose in France as well, paving the political road to the wartime Nazi-collaborationist Vichy government.  Why did bourgeois democracy fail throughout Europe in the 1930s?  Was the rise of fascism inevitable?  Is it inevitable now?  By studying the historical record of the workers movement as it struggled to overcome the obstacles hurled into its path during the interwar period of 1918 -1939 we can answer these questions. These tragic errors of the 20th century need not – and must not be – repeated in the 21st century.

— IWPCHI

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THE WORKERS’ MILITIA AND ITS OPPONENTS

From Whither France?, 1934

To struggle, it is necessary to conserve and strengthen the instrument and the means of struggle — organizations, the press, meetings, etc.  Fascism [in France] threatens all of that directly and immediately.  It is still too weak for the direct struggle for power, but it is strong enough to attempt to beat down the working-class organizations bit by bit, to temper its bands in its attacks, and to spread dismay and lack of confidence in their forces in the ranks of the workers.

Fascism finds unconscious helpers in all those who say that the “physical struggle” is impermissible or hopeless, and demand of Doumergue the disarmament of his fascist guard.  Nothing is so dangerous for the proletariat, especially in the present situation, as the sugared poison of false hopes.  Nothing increases the insolence of the fascists so much as “flabby pacificism” on the part of the workers’ organizations.  Nothing so destroys the confidence of the middle classes in the working-class as temporizing, passivity, and the absence of the will to struggle.

Le Populaire [the Socialist Party paper] and especially l’Humanite [the Communist Party newspaper] write every day:

“The united front is a barrier against fascism”;
“the united front will not permit…”;
“the fascists will not dare”, etc.

These are phrases.  It is necessary to say squarely to the workers, Socialists, and Communists: do not allow yourselves to be lulled by the phrases of superficial and irresponsible journalists and orators.  It is a question of our heads and the future of socialism.  It is not that we deny the importance of the united front.  We demanded it when the leaders of both parties were against it.  The united front opens up numerous possibilities, but nothing more.  In itself, the united front decides nothing.  Only the struggle of the masses decides.  The united front will reveal its value when Communist detachments will come to the help of Socialist detachments and vice versa in the case of an attack by the fascist bands against Le Populaire or l’Humanite.  But for that, proletarian combat detachments must exist and be educated, trained, and armed.  And if there is not an organization of defense, i.e., a workers’ militia, Le Populaire or l’Humanite will be able to write as many articles as they like on the omnipotence of the united front, but the two papers will find themselves defenseless before the first well-prepared attack of the fascists.

We propose to make a critical study of the “arguments” and the “theories” of the opponents of the workers’ militia who are very numerous and influential in the two working-class parties.

“We need mass self-defense and not the militia,” we are often told.

But what is this “mass self-defense” without combat organizations, without specialized cadres, without arms?  To give over the defense against fascism to unorganized and unprepared masses left to themselves would be to play a role incomparably lower than the role of Pontius Pilate.  To deny the role of the militia is to deny the role of the vanguard.  Then why a party?  Without the support of the masses, the militia is nothing.  But without organized combat detachments, the most heroic masses will be smashed bit by bit by the fascist gangs.  It is nonsense to counterpose the militia to self-defense. The militia is an organ of self-defense.

“To call for the organization of a militia,” say some opponents who, to be sure, are the least serious and honest, “is to engage in provocation.”

This is not an argument but an insult.  If the necessity for the defense of the workers’ organizations flows from the whole situation, how then can one not call for the creation of the militia?  Perhaps they mean to say that the creation of a militia “provokes” fascist attacks and government repression.  In that case, this is an absolutely reactionary argument.  Liberalism has always said to the workers that by their class struggle they “provoke” the reaction.

The reformists repeated this accusation against the Marxists, the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks.  These accusations reduced themselves, in the final analysis, to the profound thought that if the oppressed do not balk, the oppressors will not be obliged to beat them.  This is the philosophy of Tolstoy and Gandhi but never that of Marx and Lenin.  If l’Humanite wants hereafter to develop the doctrine of “non-resistance to evil by violence”, it should take for its symbol not the hammer and sickle, emblem of the October Revolution, but the pious goat, which provides Gandhi with his milk.

“But the arming of the workers is only opportune in a revolutionary situation, which does not yet exist.”

This profound argument means that the workers must permit themselves to be slaughtered until the situation becomes revolutionary.  Those who yesterday preached the “third period” do not want to see what is going on before their eyes. The question of arms itself has come forward only because the “peaceful”, “normal”, “democratic” situation has given way to a stormy, critical, and unstable situation which can transform itself into a revolutionary, as well as a counter-revolutionary, situation.  This alternative depends above all on whether the advanced workers will allow themselves to be attacked with impunity and defeated bit by bit or will reply to every blow by two of their own, arousing the courage of the oppressed and uniting them around their banner.  A revolutionary situation does not fall from the skies.  It takes form with the active participation of the revolutionary class and its party.

The French Stalinists now argue that the militia did not safeguard the German proletariat from defeat.  Only yesterday they completely denied any defeat in Germany and asserted that the policy of the German Stalinists was correct from beginning to end.  Today, they see the entire evil in the German workers’ militia (Roter Frontkampferbund) [i.e., Red Front Fighters: Communist-led militia banned by the social- democratic government after the Berlin May Day riots of 1929].  Thus, from one error they fall into a diametrically opposite one, no less monstrous. The militia, in itself, does not settle the question.  A correct policy is necessary. Meanwhile,the policy of Stalinism in Germany (“social fascism is the chief enemy”, the split in the trade unions, the flirtation with nationalism, putschism) fatally led to the isolation of the proletarian vanguard and to its shipwreck.  With an utterly worthless strategy, no militia could have saved the situation.

It is nonsense to say that, in itself, the organization of the militia leads to adventures, provokes the enemy, replaces the political struggle by physical struggle, etc.  In all these phrases, there is nothing but political cowardice.

The militia, as the strong organization of the vanguard, is in fact the surest defense against adventures, against individual terrorism, against bloody spontaneous explosions.

The militia is at the same time the only serious way of reducing to a minimum the civil war that fascism imposes upon the proletariat.  Let the workers, despite the absence of a “revolutionary situation”, occasionally correct the “papa’s son” patriots in their own way, and the recruitment of new fascist bands will become incomparably more difficult.

But here the strategists, tangled in their own reasoning, bring forward against us still more stupefying arguments. We quote textually:

“If we reply to the revolver shots of the fascists with other revolver shots,” writes l’Humanite of October 23 [1934], “we lose sight of the fact that fascism is the product of the capitalist regime and that in fighting against fascism it is the entire system which we face.”

It is difficult to accumulate in a few lines greater confusion or more errors. It is impossible to defend oneself against the fascists because they are — “a product of the capitalist regime”. That means, we have to renounce the whole struggle, for all contemporary social evils are “products of the capitalist system”.

When the fascists kill a revolutionist, or burn down the building of a proletarian newspaper, the workers are to sigh philosophically: “Alas! Murders and arson are products of the capitalist system”, and go home with easy consciences. Fatalist prostration is substituted for the militant theory of Marx, to the sole advantage of the class enemy. The ruin of the petty bourgeoisie is, of course, the product of capitalism. The growth of the fascist bands is, in turn, a product of the ruin of the petty bourgeoisie. But on the other hand, the increase in the misery and the revolt of the proletariat are also products of capitalism, and the militia, in its turn, is the product of the sharpening of the class struggle. Why, then, for the “Marxists” of l’Humanite, are the fascist bands the legitimate product of capitalism and the workers’ militia the illegitimate product of — the Trotskyists? It is impossible to make head or tail of this.

“We have to deal with the whole system,” we are told.

How? Over the heads of human beings? The fascists in the different countries began with their revolvers and ended by destroying the whole “system” of workers’ organizations. How else to check the armed offensive of the enemy if not by an armed defense in order, in our turn, to go over to the offensive.

L’Humanite now admits defense in words, but only in the form of “mass self-defense”. The militia is harmful because, you see, it divides the combat detachments from the masses. But why then are there independent armed detachments among the fascists who are not cut off from the reactionary masses but who, on the contrary, arouse the courage and embolden those masses by their well-organized attacks? Or perhaps the proletarian mass is inferior in combative quality to the declassed petty bourgeoisie?

Hopelessly tangled, l’Humanite finally begins to hesitate: it appears that mass self-defense requires the creation of special “self-defense groups”. In place of the rejected militia, special groups or detachments are proposed. It would seem at first sight that there is a difference only in the name. Certainly, the name proposed by l’Humanite means nothing. One can speak of “mass self-defense” but it is impossible to speak of “self-defense groups” since the purpose of the groups is not to defend themselves but the workers’ organizations. However, it is not, of course, a question of the name. The “self-defense groups”, according to l’Humanite , must renounce the use of arms in order not to fall into “putschism”. These sages treat the working-class like an infant who must not be allowed to hold a razor in his hands.  Razors, moreover, are the monopoly, as we know, of the Camelots du Roi [French monarchists grouped around Charles Maurras’ newspaper, Action Francaise, which was violently anti-democratic], who are a legitimate “product of capitalism” and who, with the aid of razors, have overthrown the “system” of democracy.  In any case, how are the “self-defense groups” going to defend themselves against the fascist revolvers? “Ideologically”, of course. In other words: they can hide themselves.  Not having what they require in their hands, they will have to seek “self-defense” in their feet.  And the fascists will in the meanwhile sack the workers’ organizations with impunity.  But if the proletariat suffers a terrible defeat, it will at any rate not have been guilty of “putschism”.  This fraudulent chatter, parading under the banner of “Bolshevism”, arouses only disgust and loathing.

[NOTE: “The Third Period”: According to the Stalinist schema, this was the “final period of capitalism”, the period of its immediately impending demise and replacement by soviets. The period is notable for the Communists’ ultra-left and adventurist tactics, notably the concept of social-fascism.]

During the “third period”  of happy memory — when the strategists of l’Humanite were afflicted with barricade delirium, “conquered” the streets every day and stamped as “social fascist” everyone who did not share their extravagances — we predicted: “The moment these gentlemen burn the tips of their fingers, they will become the worst opportunists.”  That prediction has now been completely confirmed.  At a time when within the Socialist Party the movement in favor of the militia is growing and strengthening, the leaders of the so-called Communist Party run for the hose to cool down the desire of the advanced workers to organize themselves in fighting columns.  Could one imagine a more demoralizing or more damning work than this?

In the ranks of the Socialist Party sometimes this objection is heard: “A militia must be formed but there is no need of shouting about it.”

One can only congratulate comrades who wish to protect the practical side of the business from inquisitive eyes and ears.  But it would be much too naive to think that a militia could be created unseen and secretly within four walls.  We need tens, and later hundreds, of thousands of fighters.  They will come only if millions of men and women workers, and behind them the peasants, understand the necessity for the militia and create around the volunteers an atmosphere of ardent sympathy and active support.  Conspiratorial care can and must envelop only the technical aspect of the matter.  The political campaign must be openly developed, in meetings, factories, in the streets and on the public squares.

The fundamental cadres of the militia must be the factory workers grouped according to their place of work, known to each other and able to protect their combat detachments against the provocations of enemy agents far more easily and more surely than the most elevated bureaucrats.  Conspirative general staffs without an open mobilization of the masses will at the moment of danger remain impotently suspended in midair.  Every working-class organization has to plunge into the job.  In this question, there can be no line of demarcation between the working-class parties and the trade unions.  Hand in hand, they must mobilize the masses.  The success of the workers’ militia will then be fully assured.

“But where are the workers going to get arms” object the sober “realists” — that is to say, frightened philistines — “the enemy has rifles, cannon, tanks, gas, and airplanes. The workers have a few hundred revolvers and pocket knives.”

In this objection, everything is piled up to frighten the workers.  On the one hand, our sages identify the arms of the fascists with the armament of the state.  On the other hand, they turn towards the state and demand that it disarm the fascists. Remarkable logic!  In fact, their position is false in both cases.  In France, the fascists are still far from controlling the state.  On February 6, they entered in armed conflict with the state police.  That is why it is false to speak of cannon and tanks when it is a matter of the immediate armed struggle against the fascists. The fascists, of course, are richer than we.  It is easier for them to buy arms.  But the workers are more numerous, more determined, more devoted, when they are conscious of a firm revolutionary leadership.

In addition to other sources, the workers can arm themselves at the expense of the fascists by systematically disarming them.

This is now one of the most serious forms of the struggle against fascism.  When workers’ arsenals will begin to stock up at the expense of the fascist arms depots, the banks and trusts will be more prudent in financing the armament of their murderous guards.  It would even be possible in this case — but in this case only — that the alarmed authorities would really begin to prevent the arming of the fascists in order not to provide an additional sources of arms for the workers.  We have known for a long time that only a revolutionary tactic engenders, as a by-product, “reforms” or concessions from the government.

But how to disarm the fascists?  Naturally, it is impossible to do so with newspaper articles alone.  Fighting squads must be created.  An intelligence service must be established.  Thousands of informers and friendly helpers will volunteer from all sides when they realize that the business has been seriously undertaken by us.  It requires a will to proletarian action.

But the arms of the fascists are, of course, not the only source.  In France, there are more than one million organized workers.  Generally speaking, this number is small.  But it is entirely sufficient to make a beginning in the organization of a workers’ militia.  If the parties and unions armed only a tenth of their members, that would already be a force of 100,000 men.  There is no doubt whatever that the number of volunteers who would come forward on the morrow of a “united front” appeal for a workers’ militia would far exceed that number.  The contributions of the parties and unions, collections and voluntary subscriptions, would within a month or two make it possible to assure the arming of 100,000 to 200,000 working-class fighters.  The fascist rabble would immediately sink its tail between its legs.  The whole perspective of development would become incomparably more favorable.

To invoke the absence of arms or other objective reasons to explain why no attempt has been made up to now to create a militia, is to fool oneself and others. The principle obstacle — one can say the only obstacle — has its roots in the conservative and passive character of the leaders of the workers’ organizations.  The skeptics who are the leaders do not believe in the strength of the proletariat.  They put their hope in all sorts of miracles from above instead of giving a revolutionary outlet to the energies pulsing below.  The socialist workers must compel their leaders to pass over immediately to the creation of the workers’ militia or else give way to younger, fresher forces.

A strike is inconceivable without propaganda and without agitation.  It is also inconceivable without pickets who, when they can, use persuasion, but when obliged, use force.  The strike is the most elementary form of the class struggle which always combines, in varying proportions, “ideological” methods with physical methods.  The struggle against fascism is basically a political struggle which needs a militia just as the strike needs pickets.  Basically, the picket is the embryo of the workers’ militia.  He who thinks of renouncing “physical” struggle must renounce all struggle, for the spirit does not live without flesh.

Following the splendid phrase of the great military theoretician Clausewitz, war is the continuation of politics by other means.  This definition also fully applies to civil war.  It is impermissable to oppose one to the other since it is impossible to check at will the political struggle when it transforms itself, by force of inner necessity, into a political struggle.

The duty of a revolutionary party is to foresee in time the inescapability of the transformation of politics into open armed conflict, and with all its forces to prepare for that moment just as the ruling classes are preparing.

The militia detachments for defense against fascism are the first step on the road to the arming of the proletariat, not the last. Our slogan is:

“Arm the proletariat and the revolutionary peasants!”

The workers’ militia must, in the final analysis, embrace all the toilers.  To fulfill this program completely would be possible only in a workers’ state into whose hands would pass all the means of production and, consequently, also all the means of destruction — i.e., all the arms and the factories which produce them.

However, it is impossible to arrive at a workers’ state with empty hands.  Only political invalids like Renaudel can speak of a peaceful, constitutional road to socialism. The constitutional road is cut by trenches held by the fascist bands. There are not a few trenches before us.  The bourgeoisie will not hesitate to resort to a dozen coups d’etat aided by the police and the army, to prevent proletariat from coming to power.

[NOTE: Pierre Renaudel (1871-1935): Prior to WWI, socialist leader Jean Jaures’ righthand man and editor of l’Humanite. During the war, a right-wing social patriot. In the 1930s, he and Marcel Deat led revisionist “neo-socialist” tendency. Voted down at the July 1933 convention, this tendency split from the Socialist Party. After the fascist riots of February 6, 1934, most of the “neos” joined the Radical Party, the main party of French capitalism.]

A workers’ socialist state can be created only by a victorious revolution.

Every revolution is prepared by the march of economic and political development, but it is always decided by open armed conflicts between hostile classes.  A revolutionary victory can become possible only as a result of long political agitation, a lengthy period of education and organization of the masses.

But the armed conflict itself must likewise be prepared long in advance.

The advanced workers must know that they will have to fight and win a struggle to the death. They must reach out for arms, as a guarantee of their emancipation.

[Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm#p1   Corrected and emphasis added in bold type by IWPCHI]

 

Leon Trotsky: “For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism” (1931)

The events of this past week in Charlottesville, VA have led us to call for the immediate formation of multiracial, union-based workers militias to smash the fascist threat now feeling the wind under its wings thanks to the support of the US’ new racist, immigrant-hating real-estate swindler president Donald “Andrew Johnson” Trump.

If the US Government is going to allow armed white supremacist scum to parade in the streets of US cities threatening to murder antifascist protestors then the working class must be organized to defend itself with the very same weaponry that is being brandished by the fascists.  We call for the immediate formation of  union-based workers defense guards.   Led by military vets who are union members these powerful workers battalions can harness the creative energy of the entire multiracial US working class to provide a reliable, trustworthy and  disciplined defense against the rise of the fascist scum, and can easily overwhelm any fascist mobilization that dares to make the mistake of attempting to march in the multiracial bastions of US trade unionism: our major US cities.

We are presenting the best revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist writings of the great revolutionary leaders of our movement who organized the global fight to smash fascism in the 1930s and 1940s.  It was not the belated Normandy invasion (undertaken only after it was clear that the Nazis would not defeat the USSR as the western imperialists had hoped) but the might of the USSR’s Red Army that crushed the Nazi hordes who tried and failed to overthrow the bureaucratically deformed Stalinist workers state in World War II.  The collapse of the Nazi Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front in 1944 proved the inherent superiority of the socialist system – even one so poorly led as the Stalinist USSR was – on the battlefields of Eastern Europe, where the mightiest military force ever deployed by the capitalist world found itself overwhelmed by the superior organizational and economic power of socialism, backed by superior morale and internationalist ideals of global collective struggle to defend the gains of the Bolshevik Revolution.

In this selection, Lenin’s right-hand man during the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, the organizer and leader of the Red Army and leader of the anti-Stalinist Left Opposition in the Communist Party Leon Trotsky warns German communist workers in 1931 of the impending fascist coup that was bound to occur if the working class did not form an antifascist united front against Hitler and his Nazis.

Writing for the Bulletin of the Opposition in December of 1931, here is Trotsky’s analysis of the situation in Germany.  He accurately predicts that Hitler would provoke a civil war in and then come to power not through bourgeois-democratic means but through a coup.  He talks about the disastrous concept of voting for the “lesser evil” which is so sadly prevalent in the United States today; there is much here that will be food for thought for those who are serious about fighting fascism in 2017.  We hope you find this historical gem from the archives of Trotskyism to be helpful in answering your questions as to what must be done to smash fascism in the here and now.

— IWPCHI

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For a Workers’ United Front
Against Fascism

Germany is now passing through one of those great historic hours upon which the fate of the German people, the fate of Europe, and in significant measure the fate of all humanity, will depend for decades. If you place a ball on top of a pyramid, the slightest impact can cause it to roll down either to the left or to the right. That is the situation approaching with every hour in Germany today. There are forces which would like the ball to roll down towards the right and break the back of the working class. There are forces which would like the ball to remain at the top. That is a utopia. The ball cannot remain at the top of the pyramid. The Communists want the ball to roll down toward the left and break the back of capitalism. But it is not enough to want; one must know how. Let us calmly reflect once more: is the policy carried on at present by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany correct or incorrect?

What Does Hitler Want?

The fascists are growing very rapidly. The Communists are also growing but much more slowly. The growth at the extreme poles shows that the ball cannot maintain itself at the top of the pyramid. The rapid growth of the fascists signifies the danger that the ball may roll down toward the right. Therein lies an enormous danger.

Hitler emphasizes that he is against a coup d’état. In order to strangle democracy once and for all, he wants to come to power by no other route than the democratic road. Can we seriously believe this?

Of course, if the fascists could figure on obtaining an absolute majority of the votes at the next elections in a peaceful way, then they would perhaps even prefer this road. In reality, however, this road is unthinkable for them. It is stupid to believe that the Nazis would grow uninterruptedly, as they do now, for an unlimited period of time. Sooner or later they will drain their social reservoir. Fascism has introduced into its own ranks such terrific contradictions, that the moment must come in which the flow ceases to replace the ebb. This moment can arrive long before the fascists have united about them even half of the votes. They will not be able to halt for they will have nothing more to look for here. They will be forced to resort to an overturn.

But even apart from all this, the fascists are cut off from the democratic road. The immense growth of the political contradictions in the country, the stark brigands’ agitation of the fascists, will inevitably lead to a situation in which the closer the fascists approach a majority, the more heated the atmosphere will become and the more extensive the unfolding of the conflicts and struggles will be. With this perspective, civil war is absolutely inevitable. Consequently, the question of the seizure of power by the fascists will not be decided by vote, but by civil war, which the fascists are preparing and provoking.

Can we assume even for one minute that Hitler and his counselors do not realize and foresee this? That would mean to consider them blockheads. There is no greater crime in politics than that of hoping for stupidities on the part of a strong enemy. But if Hitler is not unaware that the road to power leads through the most gruesome civil war, then it means that his speeches about the peaceful democratic road are only a cloak, that is, a stratagem. In that case, it is all the more necessary to keep one’s eyes open.

What Is Concealed Behind Hitler’s Stratagem?

His calculations are quite simple and obvious: he wants to lull his antagonists with the long-run perspective of the parliamentary growth of the Nazis in order to catch them napping and to deal them a deathblow at the right moment It is quite possible that Hitler’s courtesies to democratic parliamentarism may, moreover, help to set up some sort of coalition in the immediate future in which the fascists will obtain the most important posts and employ them in turn for their coup d’état. For it is entirely clear that the coalition, let us assume, between the Center and the fascists will not be a stage in the democratic solution of the question, but a step closer to the coup d’etat under conditions most favorable to the fascists.

We Must Plan According to the Shorter Perspective

All this means that even independently of the desires of the fascist general staff, the solution can intervene in the course Of the next few months, if not weeks. This circumstance is of tremendous importance in elaborating a correct policy. If we allow the fascists to seize power in two or three months, then the struggle against them next year will be much harder than in this. All revolutionary plans laid out for two, three, or five years in advance will prove to be only wretched and disgraceful twaddle, if the working class allows the fascists to gain power in the course of the next two, three, or five months. In the polity of revolutionary crises, the calculation of time is of just as decisive importance as it is in war operations.

Let us take another, more remote example for the clarification of our idea. Hugo Urbahns, who considers himself a “Left Communist” declares the German party bankrupt , politically done for, and proposes to create a new party. If Urbahns were right, it would mean that the victory of the fascists is certain. For, in order to create a new party, years are required (and there has been nothing to prove that the party of Urbahns would in any sense be better than Thälmann’s party: when Urbahns was at the head of the party, there were by no means fewer mistakes).

Yes, should the fascists really conquer power, that would mean not only the physical destruction of the Communist Party, but veritable political bankruptcy for it. An ignominious defeat in a struggle against bands of human rubbish – would never be forgiven the Communist International and its German section by the many-millioned German proletariat. The seizure of power by the fascists would therefore most probably signify the necessity of creating a new revolutionary party, and in all likelihood also a new International. That would be a frightful historical catastrophe. But to assume today that all this is unavoidable can be done only by genuine liquidators, those who under the mantle of hollow phrases are really hastening to capitulate like cravens in the face of the struggle and without a struggle. With this conception we Bolshevik-Leninists, who are called “Trotskyists” by the Stalinists, have nothing in common.

We are unshakably convinced that the victory over the fascists is possible – not after their coming to power, not after five, ten, or twenty years of their rule, but now, under the given conditions, in the coming months and weeks.

Thälmann Considers the Victory of Fascism Inevitable

A correct policy is necessary in order to achieve victory. That is, we need a policy appropriate to the present situation, to the present relationship of forces, and not to the situation that may develop in one, two, or three years, when the question of power will already have been decided for a long time.

The whole misfortune lies in the fact that the policy of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party, in part consciously and in part unconsciously, proceeds from the recognition of the inevitability of a fascist victory. In fact, in the appeal for the “Red United Front” published on November 29, 1931, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany proceeds from the idea that it is impossible to defeat fascism without first defeating the Social Democracy. The same idea is repeated in all possible shades in Thälmann’s article. Is this idea correct? On the historical scale it is unconditionally correct. But that does not at all mean that with its aid, that is, by simple repetition, one can solve the questions of the day. An idea, correct from the point of view of revolutionary strategy as a whole, is converted into a lie and at that into a reactionary lie, if it is not translated into the language of tactics. Is it correct that in order to destroy unemployment and misery it is first necessary to destroy capitalism? It is correct. But only the biggest blockhead can conclude from all this, that we do not have to fight this very day, with all of our forces, against the measures with whose aid capitalism is increasing the misery of the workers.

Can we expect that in the course of the next few months the Communist Party will defeat both the Social Democracy and fascism? No normal-thinking person who can read and calculate would risk such a contention. Politically, the question stands like this: Can we successfully repel fascism now, in the course of the next few months, that is, with the existence of a greatly weakened, but still (unfortunately) very strong Social Democracy? The Central Committee replies in the negative. In other words, Thälmann considers the victory of fascism inevitable.

Once Again: The Russian Experience

In order to express my thought as clearly and as concretely as possible I will come back once more to the experience with the Kornilov uprising. On August 26 (old style), 1917, General Kornilov led his Cossack corps and one irregular division against Petrograd. At the helm of power stood Kerensky, lackey of the bourgeoisie and three-quarters a confederate of Kornilov. Lenin was still in hiding because of the accusation that he was in the service of the Hohenzollerns. For the same accusation, I was at that time incarcerated in solitary confinement in Kresty Prison. How did the Bolsheviks proceed in this question? They also had a right to say: “In order to defeat the Korniloviad – we must first defeat the Kerenskiad.” They said this more than once, for it was correct and necessary for all the subsequent propaganda. But that was entirely inadequate for offering resistance to Kornilov on August 26, and on the days that followed, and for preventing him from butchering the Petrograd proletariat. That is why the Bolsheviks did not content themselves with a general appeal to the workers and soldiers to break with the conciliators and to support the red united front of the Bolsheviks. No, the Bolsheviks proposed the united front struggle to the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries and created together with them joint organizations of struggle. Was this correct or incorrect? Let Thälmann answer that. In order to show even more vividly how matters stood with the united front, I will cite the following incident: immediately upon my release after the trade unions had put up bail for me, I went directly to the Committee for National Defense, where I discussed and adopted decisions regarding the struggle against Kornilov with the Menshevik Dan and the Social Revolutionary Gotz [2], allies of Kerensky who had kept me in prison. Was this right or wrong? Let Remmele answer that.

Is Brüning the “Lesser Evil”?

The Social Democracy supports Brüning, votes for him, assumes responsibility for him before the masses-on the grounds that the Brüning government is the “lesser evil.” Die Rote Fahne attempts to ascribe the same view to me – on the grounds that I expressed myself against the stupid and shameful participation of the Communists in the Hitler referendum. But have the German Left Opposition and myself in particular demanded that the Communists vote for and support Brüning? We Marxists regard Brüning and Hitler, Braun included, as component parts of one and the same system. The question as to which one of them is the “lesser evil” has no sense, for the system we are fighting against needs all these elements. But these elements are momentarily involved in conflicts with one another and the party of the proletariat must take advantage of these conflicts in the interest of the revolution.

There are seven keys in the musical scale. The question as to which of these keys is “better” – do, re, or sol – is a nonsensical question. But the musician must know when to strike and what keys to strike. The abstract question of who is the lesser evil – Brüning or Hitler – is just as nonsensical. It is necessary to know which of these keys to strike. Is that clear? For the feeble-minded let us cite another example. When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not at all mean that the poison is a “lesser evil” in comparison with the revolver.

The misfortune consists precisely of the fact that the leaders of the German Communist Party have placed themselves on the same ground as the Social Democracy, only with inverted prefixes: the Social Democracy votes for Brüning, recognizing in him the lesser evil. The Communists, on the other hand, who refuse to trust either Braun or Brüning in any way (and that is absolutely the right way to act), go into the streets to support Hitler’s referendum, that is, the attempt of the fascists to overthrow Brüning. But by this they themselves have recognized in Hitler the lesser evil, for the victory of the referendum would not have brought the proletariat into power, but Hitler. To be sure, it is painful to have to argue over such ABC questions. It is sad, very sad indeed, when musicians like Remmele, instead of distinguishing between the keys, stamp with their boots on the keyboard.

It is Not a Question of the Workers Who Have Already Left the Social Democracy,
But of Those Who Still Remain With It

The thousands upon thousands of Noskes, Welses, and Hilferdings prefer, in the last analysis, fascism to Communism. [3] But for that they must once and for all tear themselves loose from the workers. Today this is not yet the case. Today the Social Democracy as a whole, with all its internal antagonisms, is forced into sharp conflict with the fascists. It is our task to take advantage of this conflict and not to unite the antagonists against us.

The front must now be directed against fascism. And this common front of direct struggle against fascism, embracing the entire proletariat, must be utilized in the struggle against the Social Democracy, directed as a flank attack, but no less effective for all that.

It is necessary to show by deeds a complete readiness to make a bloc with the Social Democrats against the fascists in all cases in which they will accept a bloc. To say to the Social Democratic workers: “Cast your leaders aside and join our “nonparty” united front” means to add just one more hollow phrase to a thousand others. We must understand how to tear the workers away from their leaders in reality. But reality today is-the struggle against fascism. There are and doubtless will be Social Democratic workers who are prepared to fight hand in hand with the Communist workers against the fascists, regardless of the desires or even against the desires of the Social Democratic organizations. With such progressive elements it is obviously necessary to establish the closest possible contact. At the present time, however, they are not great in number. The German worker has been raised in the spirit of organization and of discipline. This has its strong as well as its weak sides. The overwhelming majority of the Social Democratic workers will fight against the fascists, but – for the present at least – only together with their organizations. This stage cannot be skipped. We must help the Social Democratic workers in action – in this new and extraordinary situation – to test the value of their organizations and leaders at this time, when it is a matter of life and death for the working class.

We Must Force the Social Democracy into a Bloc Against the Fascists

The trouble is that in the Central Committee of the Communist Party there are many frightened opportunists. They have heard that opportunism consists of a love for blocs, and that is why they are against blocs. They do not understand the difference between, let us say, a parliamentary agreement and an ever-so-modest agreement for struggle in a strike or in defense of workers’ printshops against fascist bands.

Election agreements, parliamentary compromises concluded between the revolutionary party and the Social Democracy serve, as a rule, to the advantage of the Social Democracy. Practical agreements for mass action, for purposes of struggle, are always useful to the revolutionary party. The Anglo-Russian Committee was an impermissible type of bloc of two leaderships on one common political platform, vague, deceptive, binding no one to any action at all. The maintenance of this bloc at the time of the British General Strike, when the General Council assumed the role of strikebreaker, signified, on the part of the Stalinists, a policy of betrayal. [4]

No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself, with his grandmother, and even with Noske and Grezesinsky. [5] On one condition, not to bind one’s hands.

It is necessary, without any delay, finally to elaborate a practical system of measures – not with the aim of merely “exposing” the Social Democracy (before the Communists), but with the aim of actual struggle against fascism. The question of factory defense organizations, of unhampered activity on the part of the factory councils, the inviolability of the workers’ organizations and institutions, the question of arsenals that may be seized by the fascists, the question of measures in the case of an emergency, that is, of the coordination of the actions of the Communist and the Social Democratic divisions in the struggle, etc., etc., must be dealt with in this program.

In the struggle against fascism, the factory councils occupy a tremendously important position. Here a particularly precise program of action is necessary. Every factory must become an anti-fascist bulwark, with its own commandants and its own battalions. It is necessary to have a map of the fascist barracks and all other fascist strongholds, in every city and in every district The fascists are attempting to encircle the revolutionary strongholds. The encirclers must be encircled. On this basis, an agreement with the Social Democratic and trade-union organizations is not only permissible, but a duty. To reject this for reasons of “principle” (in reality because of bureaucratic stupidity, or what is still worse, because of cowardice) is to give direct and immediate aid to fascism.

A practical program of agreements with the Social Democratic workers was proposed by us as far back as September 1930 (The Turn in the Comintern and the German Situation), that is, a year and a quarter ago. What has the leadership undertaken in this direction? Next to nothing. The Central Committee of the Communist Party has taken up everything except that which constitutes its direct task. How much valuable, irretrievable time has been lost! As a matter of fact, not much time is left. The program of action must be strictly practical, strictly objective, to the point, without any of those artificial “claims,” without any reservations, so that every average Social Democratic worker can say to himself. what the Communists propose is completely indispensable for the struggle against fascism. On this basis, we must pull the Social Democratic workers along with us by our example, and criticize their leaders who will inevitably serve as a check and a brake. Only in this way is victory possible.

A Good Quotation From Lenin

The present-day epigones, that is, the thoroughly bad disciples of Lenin, like to cover up their shortcomings on every occasion that offers itself with quotations – often entirely irrelevant. For Marxists, the question is not decided by a quotation, but by means of the correct method. If one is guided by correct methods, it is not hard also to find suitable quotations. After I had drawn the above analogy with the Kornilov insurrection, I said to myself: We can probably find a theoretical elucidation of our bloc with the conciliators in the struggle against Kornilov, in Lenin. And here is what I actually found in the second part of Volume XIV of the Russian edition, in a letter from Lenin to the Central Committee, written at the beginning of September 1917:

“Even at the present time, we are not duty-bound to support the Kerensky government That would be unprincipled. It is asked: then we are not to fight against Kornilov? Of course we are. But that is not one and the same thing. There is a limit to this; it is being transgressed by many Bolsheviks who fail into ‘conciliationism’ and allow themselves to be driven by the current of events.

“We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, but we do not support Kerensky; we are uncovering his weaknesses. The distinction is rather delicate, but highly important and must not be forgotten.

“What does the change of our tactics consist of after the Kornilov insurrection?

“In this, that we are varying the forms of struggle against Kerensky. Without diminishing our hostility to him even by one single note, without taking back one word from what we have said against him, without giving up the task of overthrowing Kerensky, we say: we must calculate the moment. We will not overthrow Kerensky at present. We approach the question of the struggle against him differently: by explaining the weaknesses and vacillations of Kerensky to the people (who are fighting against Kornilov).”

We are proposing nothing different. Complete independence of the Communist organization and press, complete freedom of Communist criticism, the same for the Social Democracy and the trade unions. Only contemptible opportunists can allow the freedom of the Communist Party to be limited (for example, as in the entrance into the Kuomintang). We are not of their number.

No retraction of our criticism of the Social Democracy. No forgetting of all that has been. The whole historical reckoning, including the reckoning for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg [6], will be presented at the proper time, just as the Russian Bolsheviks finally presented a general reckoning to the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries for the baiting, calumny, imprisonment and murder of workers, soldiers, and peasants.

But we presented our general reckoning to them two months after we had utilized the partial reckoning between Kerensky and Kornilov, between the “democrats” and the fascists – in order to drive back the fascists all the more certainly. Only thanks to this circumstance were we victorious.

When the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany adopts the position expressed in the quotation from Lenin cited above, the entire approach to the Social Democratic masses and the trade-union organizations will change at once: instead of the articles and speeches which are convincing only to those people who are already convinced without them, the agitators will find a common language with new hundreds of thousands and millions of workers. The differentiation within the Social Democracy will proceed at an increased pace. The fascists will soon feel that their task does not at all consist merely of defeating Brüning, Braun, and Wels, but of taking up the open struggle against the whole working class. On this plane, a profound differentiation win inevitably be produced within fascism. Only by this road is victory possible.

But it is necessary to desire this victory. In the meantime, there are among the Communist officials not a few cowardly careerists and fakers whose little posts, whose incomes, and more than that, whose hides, are dear to them. These creatures are very much inclined to spout ultraradical phrases beneath which is concealed a wretched and contemptible fatalism. “Without a victory over the Social Democracy, we cannot battle against fascism!” say such terrible revolutionists, and for this reason … they get their passports ready.

Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!

[Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm


Postscript by IWPCHI:

Liberals and fake-socialists denigrate the revolutionary Trotskyists’ adherence to dialectical materialism, the scientific method of analyzing the class basis for every political movement which, if properly utilized in a Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist manner, enables us to predict – not perfectly, but with a high degree of accuracy – the roles which will be played by every political actor presently on the historical stage.  The apologists for bourgeois democracy, lovers of “common sense” laugh at us – but what bourgeois politician, Stalinist blowhard or social democrat in Germany or anywhere else in the world saw as clearly what the future would bring as did Trotsky?  He urged the Communist Party of Germany to abandon their idiotic Stalinist programme that equated the Social Democrats and the Nazis as one and the same; he urged the Communists to form a united front with the Social Democrats against the Nazis.  By the time the CP tried at the last minute to steer the ship of workers revolution away from the fascist shoals lying dead ahead it was too late.  The Stalinized Communist Party of Germany bears a large degree of the blame for the rise of Hitler;  the Stalinized Comintern’s zigzagging political programs of the 1920s and ’30s that had disoriented their party to such a degree had simultaneously created a breach in the working class forces which Hitler was able to bludgeon his way through, enabling his long rise to power.  If we are to successfully stop the rise of fascism in the US today, we must learn the hard lessons of the failure of the revolutionary workers parties to do so in Germany in the 1930s.  We, too can not count on the rise of fascism in the US to be a long, gradual ascent; fascism is far more prone to sudden leaps forward as we saw this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA.  The fascists have leaped far ahead of the level of development of the antifascist forces.  Unless we immediately begin to organize and build revolutionary socialist parties and workers defense brigades to smash the rising fascist threat, we might very well face the same dire penalty our revolutionary worker-ancestors faced in Germany in the 1930s.  Small, disorganized groups of even the bravest anti-fascist workers are no match for heavily-armed fascist killers backed by the cops, courts and government.  We need to organize the power of the entire multiracial US working class to stop the rise of fascism and to fight ultimately to overthrow the capitalist system which gives rise to the fascist gangs.  Once the working class is in power the fascists will be denied the ability to ever raise their heads again, just as the monarchists were never able to show their faces after the American Revolution.

Hero of the USSR, Sniper Liudmila Pavlichenko: Fascism – What It Is And How I Fought It

Soviet History: The Great Patriotic War
Lieutenant Liudmila Pavlichenko to the American People

From “Soviet Russia Today”; volume 11, number 6 (October 1942).

These simple, strong words of Liudmila Pavlichenko bring home to us in America the epic struggle that our great Russian allies are waging for us today. I wish you could hear them in Lieutenant Pavlichenko’s own ringing voice. I wish you could see that beautiful face with its warm brown eyes that glow with such love when she talks of her comrades that have fallen before Odessa and Sevastopol, that burn with such hatred when size talks about our enemies and their beastly deeds. I wish you could see hat sturdy, valiant figure—a figure that has been a shield to us. This girl has stood alone, in deadly danger, day after day from dawn till after dark, picking off our enemies—309 of them. Four times she has felt in her own flesh the steel of our enemy. Her wounds only stiffen her will. I wish you could feel the warm clasp of that firm hand whose unerring aim has meant so much to us. I wish you could see what happens when she pronounces the word Fritz.” Her whole being is filled with outrage against the monstrous crimes she has seen committed, and with the determination that unites her countrymen today in the flaming purpose to wipe the horrors that Hitlerism has brought on humanity forever from the earth.

Liudmila Pavlichenko knows that her visit here is a contribution to the winning of the war. But she does not feel very good about being safe and comfortable over here while her comrades keep on fighting. And I am afraid she does not feel very good about our part in the war. She knows it is our war. She knows that the heroic defenders of Stalingrad are fighting for us as well as for themselves, that their defeats are our defeats, their victories our victories. But she is not sure we know this. We must help to make her visit here worth while—these precious weeks she is spending away from the fighting front where she feels that she should be. We can do that first and foremost by multiplying n hundredfold our efforts toward the immediate opening of a Second Front—the only way we can discharge our debt to our allies, to ourselves, to the future. We can do it, each one of us, by multiplying a hundredfold our efforts in. whatever sphere of work we are making our contribution to the war. Not many of us are called upon for as difficult a task as Liudmila Pavhichenko’s. Let us dedicate ourselves to winning the war as wholly as she and her people have done.

We salute you, Liudmila Pavlichenko, for all that you have done and will do in our common cause. The strength and inspiration we draw from your presence among us will help each one of us to be a better fighter against the enemies of mankind. Your visit here, with your fellow—heroes, Lieutenant Pchelintsev and Lieutenant Krasavchenko, is a new link in the friendship between our two countries which is so essential to winning the war and building an enduring peace. To your victory—and ours!

JESSICA SMITH

*****************

You ask me first of all to say something about the urgency of the Second Front. Of course there is nothing more important. The opening of a Second Front is the only way we can be sure of a speedy victory over the enemy who threatens the freedom not only of my country, but of America, England, China—all the United Nations. There is much talk about a Second Front. Our people are still hoping and counting on it—but they are wondering when the talk will be translated into action. One thing must be clearly understood. We urge a Second Front not because we are weak, not because we lack confidence in our own strength, but because we want to bring this bloody war to an end more quickly. Think of how much blood has been shed, how much destruction and horror has been spread, how much cruelty and torture inflicted on innocent people— on old people and children. The sooner the monster fascism can be destroyed, the less blood will be shed—and that means your blood as well as ours.

Every day that passes without a Second Front increases the danger to you, increases the cost you will have to pay later for the defeat of Hitlerism. Remember that right now nine-tenths of all the armies of Hitler are engaged in our country—and not only the German armies. Hitler gathers his troops from all of Europe—from Hungary, Denmark, Italy, Rumania, Finland. Now, before our armies are further weakened, is the time to strike in Europe.

Stalingrad is a vital point for us and for you. I know our people are fighting and will keep on fighting as they did before Odessa, before Sevastopol, before Leningrad. Do not forget what each day of fighting means to our common cause. All the roads to all these cities were heaped with German corpses—the dead and the dying. The Germans do not rescue their wounded quickly from the battlefield, as we do. They advance over the bodies of their own wounded. It is that way at Stalingrad. It is important to you in America that we are killing so many of the enemy. Yes—we shall keep right on. But do not expect miracles of us. Our people are dying by the thousands too. The blow from the West must be coordinated with ours without any delay. Of course we have received help from your people, war supplies and medicines, for which we are very grateful. But the scale of the battles that are going on is very great history has never seen anything to compare with them. And the help we have received from outside is not enough. It is not only technical and material help that is important today. We need the help of people—of the armies of our allies fighting in the field.

I can’t help feeling that the American people are still too indifferent to the war and what it really means. I do not believe the American people as a whole entirely understand what war is like. Most of you so far only feel it as an inconvenience—doing without gasoline, being a little limited in the amount of sugar you use. You do not know what it is to have bombs falling all around you. You do not know what it is to see babies murdered, women and girls ravished by the Hitlerite beasts. You do not know what it is to find the charred bodies of your own comrades burned and tortured beyond recognition, to see rows of brave, fine people—people you knew—hanging along the roadside. You do not know what it is to walk into a home for old people won back from the Germans, as I did on the Sovkhoz Ilyichka, near Odessa. It was early morning, and the sun was just rising, and we went in to set the people there free. But what we found were the bodies of 108 old people, shot and tortured, slashed to pieces, blown up by grenades .

108 people, all of them old and ill. And so depraved are those Hitlerites that the old women had all been raped. Things like this could sometime happen to you if Hitler wins more victories.

And yet so many Americans still think of the war as something going on somewhere a long way off, where Russians and Germans are fighting each other. But we fight for your freedom too, we fight for the freedom of all the countries of Europe, of all the United Nations. And we are fighting alone.

Some people with whom I have talked seem to think the ocean is an obstacle of some kind. I think it is like a road—like your good American asphalt roads—perhaps better. You can go under it as well as over it. Look at all the submarines Hitler has sent to your shores. You have the great stretches of the ocean itself, you have the air above it to fly through, and the undersea passageway. I think you have a broad highway to a Second Front in Europe.

We have always admired you Americans for your great fighting qualities. You fought gloriously for freedom in your Revolution and Civil War. It is good to have such fighting traditions. But we feel that now also you must wish to fight for freedom as you fought in the past. Hitler threatens not only the USSR, he threatens you. I read your papers, and I do not see anything written there about the great danger to your country. It is all about the danger to Stalingrad. But that is your danger, too. How can we make the American people understand? It is not enough to write and talk—cry out at the top of your voice, tell about those children and old people, the millions of Hitler’s victims and what they have suffered.

And you must learn to hate the enemy as we did. Hatred did not come to us all at once. We are a peace—loving people, and we had to learn to hate. But fierce hatred rose within us after we saw with our own eyes what the Hitler beasts could do. Now we hate the enemy too much to fear him. When you are out there at your post you know that it is either you or your enemy who is killed. Our whole people know that today.

I have been asked often since I have been here how I feel when I kill a German. The feeling I have after killing a Nazi is the feeling of a hunter who has killed a beast of prey. Every time my bullet fells a Nazi I have the feeling that I have saved lives. Any people who have had Nazis trampling over their land know that. For the Nazis kill children, women, old men. To let a Nazi remain alive in your land is to abet the murder of your own people. Only the dead Nazi can be trusted to leave the innocent unharmed. Every Hitlerite killed is a step forward on the road to the liberation of mankind.

I have been asked to write something about my own life. If this will help in any way toward a better understanding of our people and our present struggle, I am glad to do this. Here is my story.

I am a Ukrainian. I was born twenty—six years ago in the town of Belaya Tserkov near Kiev. I have a younger sister, Valentina, who is now working in a munitions factory. I am proud to say she is reckoned as one of the best workers on the staff. My mother was a teacher. My father was a worker in a St. Petersburg factory when the revolution occurred. He took part in it and also in the Civil War. After we won and the country settled down, he was given an executive position which required traveling from place to place in the Ukraine. We all traveled with him. Every year of my early schooling was spent in a new school in a new city. But all this traveling around taught me a lot, and I finished school a year and a half ahead of the average. And this in spite of my being a tomboy and rather unruly in the class room. I’m afraid I was a trial to my teachers.

I was keen on sports of all kinds, and played all the boys’ games and would not allow myself to be outdone by boys in anything. That was how I turned to sharpshooting. When a neighbor’s boy boasted of his exploits at a shooting range I set out to show that a girl could do as well. So I practiced a lot.

When I was eighteen we finally settled down in Kiev. I had a choice of continuing my studies or going to work. I chose factory work and got a job in an arms plant, becoming a skilled turner. While at the factory, I continued my athletic activities and kept up my marksmanship. A funny incident occurred at this time, when my friends dragged me off to a nearby shooting gallery one day. Twelve prizes were offered. There were the usual stationary and moving targets. I bought fifteen bullets and won all the twelve prizes. The man who ran the place turned pale with alarm and astonishment as he unfastened one prize after another, and piled them up beside me. After letting him hand me the twelfth, I felt sorry for him and gave him back all the prizes.

After a few years in the factory, I was given an opportunity to enter the Military Engineering School. But war and military affairs were far from my thoughts in those days. I was interested in history and entered Kiev University in 1937. I dreamt of becoming a scholar, a teacher.

At the university I continued my athletic activities as before. I was a sprinter and a pole vaulter as well as a marksman. To perfect myself in shooting, I took courses at a sniper’s school.

I was in the city of Odessa when the war broke out. I had gone there to complete researches on my diploma thesis on Bogdan Khrnelnitsky, a great Ukrainian patriot and an important figure in the history of my country. At the very moment of the German invasion I was in a sanitarium where I had gone to recover from an illness. The moment I heard the news I stopped feeling ill. When I applied to the doctors of the sanitarium for a discharge, they refused. I didn’t feel that the time could be spared for arguments and appeals. I knew the war had done more to cure me than they could. So I took French leave.

They wouldn’t take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in. But I finally managed it. I served first with one of the volunteer detachments called “destroyer squads” organized in cities and districts close to the front, to dispose of German paratroopers. My detachment was later merged with a regular Red Army unit. I was a member of the 25th, the Chapayev Division.

Two Rumanian mercenaries of the Nazis helped me to become a sniper. To prove that I could qualify I was told to show my skill on a group of Rumanians. When I picked off the two I was accepted. They are not figured in my score total because they were test shots.

I have to admit I was scared in my first real baptism of fire. I was in range of hot German fire and I cried out to our machine gunners to cover me with return fire and save me. But I soon learned the steadiness and coolness required of our snipers. My sniper’s score began when I intercepted a German scouting party of three men. The Germans had laid down annihilating fire on a certain spot that they were determined to sweep bare. When they thought nothing there remained alive they sent out these scouts to reconnoiter to see if they could safely occupy the place. I spotted them and asked for the assignment to pick them off. Receiving permission I crawled to a spot from which I could cover them. I got two of the three. They started my score which now stands at 309.

Sniping is dangerous because we are hunted as well as hunters. The presence of a sniper can demoralize troops and everything is done to get rid of him with concentrated fire from all arms, even artillery, when his exact position is known; or by setting snipers of their own against him. A considerable part of my action has consisted of duels with enemy snipers.

It requires great endurance and willpower to be in exposed and difficult positions for fifteen or twenty hours at a stretch. And when you are in your position you must be under rigid self—control not to waste a shot or a movement. The slightest start may mean death. Your day begins before dawn, so that you can reach your position and build up your camouflage before there is light, and it ends after nightfall so that you can return under cover of darkness.

The Nazi hunters have often stalked me. One duel with a German sniper lasted three days. It was a hunt to the death. If either of us had a suspicion that the other had detected his position that position was shifted. That was one of the tensest experiences of my life. Finally he made one move too many.

Another time they assigned a squad of five Tommy gunners to get me. They camouflaged themselves and decided that they had set a clever trap for me on a road they thought I would pass on. They were right but I had my own way of using the road. I detected the trap, got into a position where their bullets couldn’t reach me and poured lead into what became a trap for them. I got three and when the two survivors ran for it, I got one of them. I searched the four bodies for the papers of the men and brought them back together with four tommyguns.

Once another sniper, Leonid Kitsenko, and I got quite a haul of Nazi officers. Following their communication wires to a dugout we took a position that commanded that particular field headquarters. Two officers came along to submit reports. Our shots dropped them. A man ran to their aid and we got him. An officer dashed out to see what the shooting was about and he joined them. The others fell into panic and for a while offered us perfect targets, as they milled around. Finally they concentrated protective fire around the spot while they abandoned the dugout, lugging out their files, and other equipment.

Our chief quarries were the enemy scouts. They and their snipers used many tricks to fool us or to get us to reveal ourselves. A German tin hat would appear, just a fraction of it, and we would think “I’ll get that Fritz !” Then the tin hat would waggle like the head of a toy elephant and disappear. We soon learned not to fall for this. One of their scouts whom I was hunting, after trying the helmet trick sent a cat out, either to distract me or to fool me into belief that nobody would be around where a cat could parade by so unconcernedly. Finally the scout tried his last trick. A dummy of a German soldier, in full uniform and even with a rifle in position, was raised and dangled before me. Then I knew that my man was there. I kept the spot covered but held my fire. The puppeteer now felt safe. He put his field glass to his eye. I shot at the flash of the lens. And that one had his last look at Soviet soil.

Yes, it is dangerous work, but things went better as I got used to the fire and German tactics. I have been wounded four times, twice rather heavily. I carry a scar, over the bridge of my nose, from the fourth wound, which I received during the evacuation of Sevastopol. In addition to the four wounds I suffered shell-shock which temporarily affected my hearing, but I was able to take treatments right on the front lines, and stayed in action.

Odessa and Sevastopol will remain in my memory forever. We defended Odessa till October. Then orders came to evacuate. We took positively everything with us aboard ship. The airmen took all the old airplane parts they could carry with them, and the cavalry took even old horseshoes. So we went aboard and started for Sevastopol.

Much has been written about Sevastopol. The history of wars can show nothing to compare with its defense. We were but one Russian to every ten Germans. Fifteen hundred planes flew over the long-suffering town every day. The air shook with incessant cannonading, exploding shells and bombs. The sun was blotted out by clouds of dust and earth. We hadn’t enough shells or food, but we hung on. The city had ceased to be—there was nothing save a heap of ruins—but still we hung on, battling from our stand on the ruins, shooting from behind every building, every elevation or mound.

Not a clod of Sevastopol ground was given up without a fierce fight not a step did we retreat without orders! We mowed down the Hitlerites like ripe grain. Drunk with blood as with ,vodka they swept headlong to death. Fresh German divisions were driven in to take the place of those fallen—there was no end to them! The Germans had to pay a high price —too high—for the heaps of brick and ash, the ruin that was once Sevastopol. Our 150 snipers alone accounted for a 1,080 of them. By that time I had trained a considerable number of snipers. Up to now I have trained eighty snipers and their combined score is well over the two thousand mark. By that time even the Germans knew of me. With their German stupidity they tried to bribe me. Their radios blared into our lines: “Liudmila Pavlichenko come over to us. We will give you plenty of chocolate and make you a German officer.” When they got no answer to that, they turned to threats. Their last message to me was: “Liudmila Pavlichenko, you will not escape us. When we catch you we will tear you in 309 pieces.” They even knew my score!

They might have known that they would not have that opportunity. Ten Germans managed to ambush a comrade of mine, Nikolai Koval. They didn’t get him alive. He blew himself up with a hand grenade and took six of the fascist beasts with him. Now I have come to America, the country which my people admire as one of the most advanced and democratic countries of the world. We are proud to be united with the American people in the fight against fascism.

Pavlichenko during her American tour, Washington, D.C., 1942.

There is a long tradition of friendship between our two countries. The United States and the Soviet Union have never fought against each other. This friendship must be deepened and strengthened after Hitlerism has been defeated by our common efforts. I think our country has understood America better than America has understood us. Our people have always been interested in the Americans, in studying their history and their life. I have studied quite a lot of American history myself, and I do not feel strange here.

I have come to your country as the representative of Soviet youth. I hope my visit may have some useful results. I am troubled to be idle now when everything and everyone is required by my country in the fight against the Hitlerites. I am impatient to be back. Later, when peace comes, I want to visit your beautiful country and see many things there is no time to see now—and enjoy myself a little and get to know your people better.

There isn’t time now. Perhaps then your people will get to know me better, too. Now I am looked upon a little as a curiosity, a subject for newspaper headlines, for anecdotes. In the Soviet Union I am looked upon as a citizen, as a fighter, as a soldier for my country. Yes, I am impatient to be back. I have 309 Hitlerites on my score. But the score is not finished, my work is not over.

In closing I have a special message for American women. I would like them to know first about our mothers. Soviet mothers love their children enormously. I know how much my mother loves me—and yet she writes to me: “I want to see you more than anything—but don’t come home until you come with victory.” And when their sons are killed our mothers do not stop to mourn—they work all the harder. Soviet mothers send their sons to the front, and if necessary their daughters too, without tears in their eyes. They know that it is necessary. While women are not regularly a part of our armed forces, many are fighting in one way or another. There are many, many cases where mothers whose sons are at the front become guerrilla fighters. Our women were on a basis of complete equality long before the war. From the first day of the Revolution full rights were granted the women of Soviet Russia. One of the most important things is that every woman has her own specialty. That is what actually makes them as independent as men. Soviet women have complete self-respect, because their dignity as human beings is fully recognized. Whatever we do, we are honored not just as women, but as individual personalities, as human beings. That is a very big word. Because we can be fully that, we feel no limitations because of our sex. That is why women have so naturally taken their places beside men in this war. We have a tradition, too, to live up to. There was Durova, the Russian woman guerrilla, who fought against Napoleon’s invading armies in 1812, and Dasha Sevastopolskaya who fought in the heroic defense of Sevastopol in 1854-55. So in today’s war our women have carried on these traditions—and added something. The names of many of them have already been immortalized Lisa Chaikina, Tanya (Zoya) Kosmodemianskaya, Maria Baida, Nina Onilova, Valya Phillipova—and scores of others. Our women have proved that we can master machines and technique as well as men can, that we can have as much will and determination as men can, that we can kill our enemies as well as men can. It seems strange to many Americans that women go into battle. They seem to think the war has changed them into some strange kind of creature between a man and a woman. But we are still feminine beings. We can still wear nice clothes and have polished fingernails in the proper time and place. We remain women and human beings as before. The war has made us tougher, that’s all.

Women behind the lines have almost entirely taken the place of men at machines. They are locksmiths, turners, locomotive engineers, miners. Now they do all the things that used to be men’s specialties—and they even manage to increase productivity 500 to 1,000 per cent. They know they are working as we are all working for our victory, for our army, for our freedom.

And on behalf of all these Russian women fighting in our common cause, I express the wish that American women should replace the men at the machines as our women do, that American women should understand as our women do that their sons and husbands at the front are fighting for universal freedom. That they should hurry and help defeat our common enemy—and do away with Hitlerism—and that such help can come only through opening the Second Front! American women must understand that if the Second Front is not opened now, the United States will face much greater suffering and losses later.

SOURCE: https://www.marxists.org/archive/pavlichenko/1942/10/x01.htm

On Anniversary of US War Crimes Against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Trump Threatens to Nuke North Korea

Source: Asahi Shimbun

Once again the United States Government – a ruthless, racist dictatorship of the numerically tiny WASPy US capitalist class, representing less than 10% of the US population – is threatening to use its nuclear arsenal to annihilate a tiny country of non-white people.  On the anniversary of two of the worst war crimes in world history, committed by the US against the Japanese workers on August 7th and 9th, 1945 – the completely unjustifiable nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which killed over 200,000 people – the ignorant, criminal real-estate swindler President of the United States, Donald Trump threatened tiny North Korea with nuclear annihilation for daring to defend itself from US imperialism.

The dark green area is North Korea. The smaller the country, the more the cowardly US capitalist class wants to attack it. [Source: Wikipedia]

Still humiliated by the fact that tiny socialist North Korea has not only successfully defended itself against the most powerful military on Earth for over 50 years, and that it has now – in spite of brutal economic sanctions – been able to deploy an effective nuclear deterrent which has stopped US invasion plans dead in their tracks – the racist worker-hating real estate swindler President of the United States Donald Trump has “gone ballistic” this week.  After the North Koreans once again successfully tested a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and then – after the US flew nuclear-armed stealth bombers right along the North Korean border (just imagine how the US would react if the Russians or Chinese did this along the US border!) – the North Koreans threatened to use their nukes to defend themselves against the US if they dared to attack the North, Trump lost his tiny, money-worshipping, college-student-robbing mind.  Speaking like the filthy rich lunatic that he is at a press conference called to discuss the “opioid crisis” in the USA (held, characteristically, at “Trump National Golf Club” in Bedminster, NJ) he blurted out:  “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He [North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un] has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”  [Source: “Remarks by President Trump Before a Briefing on the Opioid Crisis”, 8 August 2017, whitehouse.gov]   We’re certain that Trump could not have been more dimly aware of the effect such a monstrous threat would have on US allies like Japan, which was in the middle of the annual commemoration of the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when notorious racist Trump threatened a similar attack on a neighboring Asian country!  If the US nuked North Korea – guess where the fallout would be likely to land?  To put it mildly, the South Korean and Japanese workers are not amused.

During ceremonies, commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the US nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, “[a]tomic bomb survivor Koichi Kawano put Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the spot by asking him sternly, ‘What country’s prime minister are you? Are you going to abandon us?'”  The right-wing scumbag Abe’s has openly defended Trump’s nuclear threat against North Korea and he and his government was denounced by the Japanese “Hibakusha” (nuclear bomb survivors) for refusing to sign the UN “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” back in July.

“A petition compiled by five hibakusha groups in Nagasaki and submitted to Abe also read, ‘It is extremely regrettable that (when the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty was adopted at the United Nations), representatives of Japan, the only country that suffered atomic bombings in a war, were not there. We, hibakusha in Nagasaki, strongly protest against the government with burning anger.’

“In the ceremony held prior to the meeting to mark the 72nd anniversary, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also said in the city’s Peace Declaration, ‘I urge the Japanese government to reconsider the policy of relying on the [US’] nuclear umbrella.’ Hibakusha applauded the declaration.

“Shigemitsu Tanaka, 76, vice chairman of the council of atomic bomb sufferers in Nagasaki, complained about the way in which government officials always repeat the same platitudes.

“‘They could have brought a tape recorder with them,’ he said.

“Tamashii Honda, 73, chairman of the association of bereaved families of atomic bomb victims in Nagasaki, said, ‘Japan should talk to the United States in a forceful manner.'”  [Source:  Asahi Shimbun, “A-bomb survivor asks Abe, ‘What country’s leader are you?’” 10 August 2017]

In South Korea, an editorial in the Dong-A-Ilbo bluntly pointed out the fact that it is the constant war provocations launched against it by the US military forces in South Korea and Guam that provoked the North’s visceral reaction:

“[T]he North had never specifically stated where to attack on the continental U.S. The U.S. military operates a launching base in Guam for strategic weapons and long-range strategic bombers that will fly to the Korean Peninsula in an emergency, a pain in the ass to the North.

[…]

“The extended deterrence of the U.S. lies at the foundation of the trust among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, and if the trust vanishes, it will lead to weakening of the alliance between South Korea and the U.S. and the alliance among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. Against the backdrop, South Korea and Japan will start considering nuclear armament and China’s influences will increase. Probably, this is what the North is hoping for.

“Hawkish politicians in the U.S. talk about a war on the Korean Peninsula at the expense of mass civilian sacrifice in two Koreas.”

[Source:  Dong-A-Ilbo, “North Korea should not be a game changer”  10 August 2017]

The Joongang Daily of Seoul also cited US war provocations against N. Korea as legitimate complaints, publishing a photo of two US Air Force B1-B Lancer stealth nuclear bombers flying on a mission from Guam across the Korean Peninsula just miles from the North Korean border on 8 August 2017:

Source: Source: Joongang Ilbo, Seoul, S. Korea

Idiotically, Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson – another arrogant member of the US capitalist ruling class, with an estimated net worth of $245 million – when asked by a reporter if the workers of the US should be worried about the escalating threats against North Korea stated:  “I think Americans should sleep well at night”!  Tell that to the tens of thousands of US soldiers stationed in S. Korea and on Guam, and to their families back home!  And of course he doesn’t give a damn about whether or not Korean or Japanese workers sleep well at night – to Tillerson and the rest of the filthy rich US capitalist class they’re all just expendable pawns in the US capitalist chess game being played against the working classes of the world.

A Brief History of the Korean War

The US capitalist class and its government is terrified that the tiny, defiant North Korean workers state has in its possession a modest but strategically significant nuclear arsenal fully capable of short-range defense of its country from US military aggression.  Since 1945, the United States has engaged in one military threat after another against the North Koreans and was responsible for launching the Korean War – a 3-year shooting war which left over 36,000 US, an estimated 3 million Korean civilians and soldiers and as many as 900,000 Chinese soldiers dead!  The Korean War was an imperialist war crime launched by the US capitalist class in order to “save Korea for capitalist exploitation”.  It was a failed attempt to crush the working class and peasant revolution that swept the entire Korean peninsula in the wake of the defeat of Japanese fascism which had brutally occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945.  At the end of the war, the Korean peninsula was partitioned along an arbitrarily-selected demarcation line into a northern, Soviet Union-controlled zone and a southern US-controlled zone.  In the North, the Korean communists who had been the leading forces in the long struggle against the Japanese fascist occupation took power; in the South, the Korean communists created workers and peasants committees that seized power in all the cities and towns throughout the south.  But instead of allowing the Korean workers and peasants to create their own working class and peasant based government, the United States created a puppet South Korean client state composed of right-wing Korean exiles living in the USA as well as thousands of Koreans who had collaborated with the fascist Japanese occupying forces!  When the “South Korean” workers and peasants rose up against this US puppet government of fascist scum, the US and their fascist “South Korean” allies slaughtered them!

In 1949, the Chinese workers and peasants – aided by a strong contingent of Korean communist leaders in the Chinese Communist Party – overthrew capitalism in China in the great Chinese Revolution.  Now, the North Koreans were backed not just by the tremendous power of the USSR, but by the brand-new power of the revolutionary Chinese working class and peasantry.   With the US puppet government in “South Korea” slaughtering communists all over the country and with negotiations getting nowhere between the North and South over repatriation of imprisoned and tortured communists in the South, tensions rose to the breaking point.  Both the North and South had long engaged in small-scale cross-border attacks, with the US military actively involved in the military operations of the puppet “South Korean” military forces.  On 25 June, 1950 the North Korean forces, having endured years of provocations, launched a massive invasion of the South, seeking to complete the struggle which they had fought for since 1910: to bring the Korean peninsula under Korean rule.  If it hadn’t been for the presence of US imperialist forces being deployed into the Korean peninsula – where they clearly did not and do not belong – the Korean War would have been over in just a few weeks.  Instead, the war dragged on for 3 years, with the US involvement increasing rapidly to the point where the US ended up dropping more bombs on Korea than they deployed in all of WWII.  In just three years the US had killed an estimated 3 million Koreans plus nearly 1 million Chinese soldiers who had fought to defend their Korean working class and peasant sisters and brothers.  The US bombing was so savage that not a single building over two stories tall was said to have been left standing between Seoul and the Chinese border.  US forces committed many atrocities against Korean civilians, slaughtering thousands simply because the style of clothing they wore was supposedly indicative of their allegiance to the North.  One of the US war crimes, committed against defenseless South Korean civilians hiding from attacking US forces at the No Gun Ri bridge has become world-renowned for its senseless brutality – but it was just one of many, many others.

This 2008 photo shows a concrete abutment outside one of the twin underpasses of the No Gun Ri railroad bridge, where investigators’ white paint identifies bullet marks and embedded fragments from U.S. Army gunfire in the 1950 massacre of South Korean refugees trapped beneath the bridge. Others are similarly marked inside the tunnel. Still other evidence lies beneath the level of the road, built years after the killings.
한국어: 노근리 양민 학살이 벌어진 다리 밑 사진. 총알 자국이 하얀 원으로 그려져 있다.     Photo by Cjthanley   Source: Wikipedia, “No Gun Ri Massacre”

The slaughter unleashed against the Korean workers and peasants by US imperialism was the direct precursor to the equally hideous Vietnam War in which another 3 million workers and peasants were slaughtered by the US.  But unlike the Vietnam War, which was ended by agreements negotiated in 1975, the Korean War never ended!  Since 1953 an armed truce has left the North and South in a state of war, with North Korea’s once stalwart defenders in the USSR now gone and a pro-capitalist criminal Chinese “Communist Party” leadership gradually backing away from its long-time ally.  Now, tiny North Korea – a nation-state with a population of just 25 million (roughly equal to that of Texas), whose land area equals the size of Pennsylvania, with an estimated gross domestic product equivalent to that of Vermont! – is left to defend itself almost alone – and is obscenely being portrayed as a “military threat” to the United States! 

It is a savage example of the extent to which the US working class has been brainwashed by the wall-to-wall propaganda of the US imperialist bourgeois press that today, in spite of all the physical and historical evidence to the contrary, US workers believe that NORTH KOREA – poses some kind of existential threat to the USA – and not the other way around!

In order for the numerically insignificant US capitalist class to rule the world they must make sure that not even the tiniest nation-state obtain the only modern military weapon capable of effectively defending any nation-state from attack by a larger imperialist power: intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the “homeland” of any aggressor nation.  North Korea – a small workers state that overthrew capitalist class rule in 1946 – has developed its own nuclear capability and has recently completed real-world tests of its own continental – not “inter”continental – ballistic missiles (CBMs, not ICBMs); it has previously tested nuclear weapons.  Experts now believe that North Korea possesses a handful of nuclear bombs and that is well on its way to developing and deploying long-range ballistic missiles – although whether or not North Korea has the technology to combine the two elements into an effective nuclear ICBM capability remains an open question.  So far, the North Koreans have not tested a single long-range ICBM; their long-range missiles might be able to barely reach cities in Alaska, according to military experts – but no one knows for sure because the North Koreans have never actually proven this capability.  They still have to prove that they can protect any nuclear warhead on one of their missiles from the intense battering encountered by an ICBM when it makes its re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere on the way to the target.  So all the US blathering over the “threat” posed by the North Korean mini-arsenal is just that: scare-mongering propaganda designed to frighten US workers into supporting the US capitalist class revenge fantasy against the workers of North Korea.

It is the duty of every class-conscious revolutionary socialist worker on this planet to oppose every attempt by any imperialist capitalist state to overthrow any workers state – from North Korea to China to Cuba and Vietnam.  The revolutionary victories achieved by the workers and peasants in these successful revolutions – though under attack now by the fake-“communist” parties running all of these bureaucratically deformed workers states – represent the high-water mark of the long struggle of workers and peasants to emancipate ourselves from brutal exploitation by the capitalist classes of the world.  As Trotsky explained when talking about the defense of the USSR – now no longer in existence thanks to the betrayals of the Stalinists – “Those who cannot defend old victories will never achieve new ones”.   The US attacks on North Korea are part of their long-range goal to roll back the gains of EVERY workers and peasants revolution!  They have their sights set on launching capitalist restoration through counter-revolution in China as their main objective; that is why it is so criminal for the leadership of the pro-capitalist Chinese “Communist Party” to conspire with the US Government to sell North Korea down the river!  That is why we say: Defend North Korea!  US Imperialism: Keep Your Bloody Hands Off the World!  And this is why we say that the top priority for US workers right now is to join us in building a revolutionary Trotskyist workers party that will organize the overthrow of the most despotic and bloodthirsty terrorist organization in the world: the US capitalist class.   Until the workers do this, the US capitalist class and their military machine will go on threatening and murdering thousands of workers each and every year.  Unless the US working class rises up and puts an end to the bloody class rule of its capitalist “masters” the workers of the whole world will have to join together to crush US imperialism – destroying every major US city in the process, just as was done to Nazi Germany in 1945!

Workers of the World, Unite!

Independent Workers Party of Chicago

The Great French Revolution – “L’Autrichienne”: The Treachery of Marie-Antoinette and Its Historical Parallels

As part of our study of the French Revolution we have come across many references to the “innocence” of the last French Queen, Marie-Antoinette and to the alleged “savagery” of the French revolutionaries who ordered her execution in 1793.  Ever since the day of her execution she has been the subject of hagiographic publications that extol her beauty, her romantic nature and her alleged “kindness” and which portray her as a victim of the “excesses” committed by the revolutionary leaders of the French Revolution.

These romanticised portrayals of this haughty and treacherous monarchist are to be expected of the writings of the deposed French aristocracy who were Marie’s contemporaries.  But what can we say of the modern-day writers on this subject, who live in nation-states whose working classes long ago deposed the royal excrescences and established bourgeois republican rule on the ashes of their respective monarchies?  How depraved does one have to be to pine for the “good old days” of the absolute monarchs?  These vicious swine lived in luxury, squeezing every penny they could out of the peasantry, leaving the peasants to starve year after year.  Though the legend of Marie-Antionette’s statement “let them eat cake” may be apocryphal, Kropotkin (in his “The Great French Revolution”) tells us of how similar brutal statements made by other representatives of the landed aristocracy were commonplace:  he quotes the Governor of Dijon telling a gathering of starving peasants: “The grass has sprouted,  go to the fields and browse on it”!   During the final years of the Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the entire French nation was reduced to starvation while the royal family, the nobility, proprietors of landed estates and the clergy feasted on delicacies – while the workers and peasants were denied even scraps of bread to subsist on.  Only those who have forgotten, or who never learned of the extreme misery that was imposed by the Kings and Queens of old upon the vast majority of the population of their respective countries can shed tears over the well-deserved fate of Austrian Marie-Antoinette, whom the French workers and peasants dubbed “L’Autrichienne” – “The Austrian Bitch”.  The French workers and peasants did not reach that level of hatred for the Queen and the entire French aristocracy overnight: it took well over a decade of brutal suffering at the hands of the Bourbons and their ruthless tax collectors, jailers and executioners before their hatred of the monarchy reached its breaking point.

The many letters written by Marie-Antoinette that still exist are the subject of a great deal of this romanticism of the French Queen hated by the vast majority of her subjects; hagiographers focus on the alleged “romantic” escapades of this Austrian despot as if she was just a beautiful and frivolous victim of her noble birth and an innocent voluptuary.  But in fact, those very same letters reveal what a vicious, treacherous and deadly threat Marie and her royal court were to the workers and peasants of France.  Her hagiographers would have us believe that as the French Revolution progressed, Marie-Antoinette became more and more a pitiable, helpless victim of the events that swirled around her.  In fact she was one of the very centers of counter-revolutionary intrigue plotting the execution of the revolutionary French workers and peasants who had launched the Revolution and who were working inexorably to throw off the yoke of the French monarchy that had enslaved and brutalized the masses for centuries – and it is these same letters that prove this fact beyond doubt.

History has produced many interesting personalities representative of the same social classes that appear and reappear in different countries in different epochs but often with surprising similarities so profound that if you were simply to describe the machinations of these people without stating who they were or what country they were from you might well identify any one of them with the works of the others.  As Marxists know, this is because there are roles that are played out by the representatives of the various actors in any class society that are delimited by the levels of development of the productive forces of that society in a given stage of its development.  Thus, the roles of the various elements of feudal societies tend to act in strikingly similar ways, constrained as they are to play the roles history has assigned them.  So it is we find amazing similarities between three Queens who lived and died in three consecutive centuries, who never had occasion to meet their immediate predecessor and could not have been personally influenced by them outside of the study of their histories: Queen Henrietta-Maria of England (wife of the doomed Charles I, born in France, died in 1669); Marie-Antoinette (Austrian born 1755, executed 1793); and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (born in German Empire in 1872; executed 1918).  The last two of these vicious despots have had mountains of bullshit published about them romanticising their lives and making martyrs out of these women who urged on their respective King and Tsar to ruthlessly crush the workers and peasants who opposed their monstrous reigns.  They would have happily seen the land of their adopted nations soaked in the blood of millions of peasants and workers if that was necessary in order to save their monarchies.  These are not idle claims; they are incontrovertible truths preserved in the private letters they exchanged with their husbands and with other representatives of their respective court camarillas who were actively conspiring to drown the rising of the masses in blood.

Readers of this blog will know that we have published a chapter of anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s excellent 2-volume history “The Great French Revolution” recently, in honor of Bastille Day.  The book is excellent, and throughout the book Kropotkin quite accurately describes the treachery of Marie-Antoinette, often referring to her letters sent to various co-conspirators among the French aristocracy in exile as well as to her benefactors in Germany who were preparing to invade France to save the Bourbon monarchy.  What Kropotkin does not make clear is that those very letters contain irrefutable proof that, far from being a frivolous innocent victim of the times, Marie-Antoinette was an active conspirator against the Revolution: from 1789 to her execution four years later she was writing in multiple ciphers in invisible ink to her co-conspirators throughout Europe, using ciphers she had personally worked out and maintained with those correspondents.  These letters reveal that she was in direct contact with the German generals who were preparing to invade France and who had vowed to slaughter every revolutionary worker and peasant they could lay hands on.

In undertaking this profound act of conscious treason against the citizens of France, it is astonishing to see that she was imitating the treachery of Charles I’s consort Henrietta-Maria, who a hundred years before had carried on a secret correspondence with her doomed husband in the years leading up to his execution – even while he was imprisoned and under 24-hour surveillance.  How these secret communications of the two Queens were carried out are described in detail in two very interesting monographs we have run across on the Internet.

Irrefutable proof of the active espionage and conspiratorial activities of the “innocent” Marie-Antoinette against the workers and peasants of France during the Great French Revolution continued right up until the moment of her execution.  This evidence alone more than justifies the execution of “L’Autrichienne”.   SOURCE: cryptiana.web.fc2.com

And here is the astonishingly similar evidence against Queen Henrietta-Maria:

Queen Henrietta’s conspiratorial correspondence with soon-to-be-executed Charles I would have justified a similar fate for her had she been captured by Cromwell’s forces during the English Civil War.   SOURCE:  cryptiana.web.fc2.com

In both cases these resourceful women were able to carry out their secret correspondence while either they or their correspondents were under tight security and 24-hour surveillance.  The many ways in which Charles I was able to bribe and convince multiple servants, guards and other visitors to undertake this very dangerous work is a case study in the threat posed by a deposed member of the ruling class of any era, showing how capable they are of manipulating weak members of the revolutionary classes to carry out espionage activities on their behalf.  Truly, there was only one way to put an end to Charles I’s endless plots against the Cromwellian revolutionaries.  Likewise with Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI: they maintained their correspondence with their aristocratic relatives and French exiles who were preparing to invade France from neighboring countries in order to drown the Revolution in blood and restore the monarchy.  Nothing short of their executions could have put a final end to their truly monstrous conspiracies against the people of France.

Perhaps it is no coincidence in the case of Marie-Antoinette that she followed so closely the methods used by her historical doppelgänger in the English Civil War of a century and a half earlier.  Kropotkin notes that Louis XVI, on being imprisoned at the Tuileries on 6 October 1789 by the heroic revolutionary masses of Paris, ” asked for the history of Charles I to be brought to him from his library”.

Only the Bolsheviks were stalwart enough revolutionaries who had studied these lessons of history so well that they fully recognized the living threat posed by the captured Tsar and Tsarina and thus completely isolated them from their supporters inside and outside of revolutionary Russia.  But as every living monarch poses a direct threat of the restoration of a deposed monarchy should the counter-revolution gain the upper hand against the revolution, it became necessary to end the ruthless Romanov dynasty in the only way a hereditary despotism can be truly ended.   We shed no tears over these despots who, in all of their cases, presided over the wanton torture, execution and massacre of thousands of peasants and workers during their brutal reigns.  And we publish this as a warning to all future worker-revolutionaries that, in a revolution, one of the worst mistakes that can be made by the revolutionaries is to be too magnanimous to the mortal enemies of the working class.

—- IWPCHI

U2 Frontman Bono and His @ONE Organization Fingered by US Special Ops Commander as Collaborators With Pentagon

Bono and equally repulsive Bob Geldof shaking hands with US war criminal George W. Bush.

(UPDATED 24/25 July 2017) – We have always despised the third-rate “punk” band U2’s decidedly third-rate music as being far below the standard set by the top bands of the British Punk Invasion of the late 1970s.  The very name of the band – U2 – the name of an infamous spy plane used by the US CIA to spy on the USSR during the late 1950s and early 1960s – caused suspicion among “punks” at the time it strangely emerged on the music scene, just as did “The Police” (that was another very strange name for a “punk” band and aroused our personal suspicions at the time).

It is now well known that the US Government and its secret assassination wing the CIA created pro-capitalist “cultural” organizations designed to oppose the influence of pro-working class organizations sponsored and/or influenced by the USSR.  The  “Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF)” lured many willing – and many unsuspecting – writers and bourgeois intellectuals and academics into its fold.  It has been supposed that the CIA’s operations in this area have long since been abandoned.  But recent revelations – like this one – indicate that this is not true.

During the War in Iraq of 2004, the US Government announced that it was launching propaganda operations designed to influence the “Arab street” to support the objectives of US imperialism as it rampaged throughout the Mideast, slaughtering civilian men, women and children.  But behind the scenes of these well-known propaganda operations of the US Government, it appears that many other operations were being undertaken to influence the minds of American and Western European youth to support the criminal objectives of the US capitalist class and their blood-soaked military.

Popular music has always been a way for the widely hated US Government to reach the “hearts and minds” of the workers subliminally.  During the 1950s and 1920s the US Government sought to segregate record releases as well as radio broadcasts into separate racial categories so as to keep the working class divided and thus more easily manipulated.  Until the rise of the Communist- and Trotskyist- Party-influenced Civil Rights Movement of the late 1940s and 1950s, music and the arts were kept segregated by the owners of newspapers, radio stations and record companies.  Almost every attempt of black and white youth to come together to enjoy rock-and-roll concerts during the 1950s was met with police-state violence ranging from refusal to allow the concerts to occur to physical attacks on the audience and performers.

In the late 1950s and 1960s the US Government sponsored “cultural exchange” programs in which famous US jazz musicians were sent to the USSR as ambassadors of the “free world” to attempt to show the workers of socialist nation-states what they were missing.  Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and many others very controversially volunteered to allow themselves to be pawns in the global culture war that accompanied the “Cold War”.

In the 1960s, rock bands who opposed the war in Vietnam were placed under US police-state surveillance and their members were arrested and thrown in jail at the slightest pretext for doing so.  The FBI’s murderous COINTELPRO operation was unleashed against members of the Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, John Lennon and Yoko Ono and many other “anti-war” musicians.

In the late 1970s the pages of the “counter-culture” magazine “Rolling Stone” – a magazine that was originally one of the primary mouthpieces of US youth opposition to the Vietnam War – were turned into recruitment posters to lure workers into the US war machine.  During the late 1970s and 1980s it was ads from the US Army that kept Rolling Stone afloat financially (we cancelled our subscription and refused to read this pro-war rag).

So how is it that the frontman of the incomprehensibly popular rock band “U2” would ignore all that horrible precedent in order to make common cause with a US military that has been committing war crimes without cessation since World War II?  What motivates a citizen of Ireland like Bono to join hands with the most murderous military to rampage across the globe since Hitler’s Wehrmacht?

Bono is the head of one of the myriad of fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs)  that in fact are sponsored and backed by top capitalists and governmental organizations of imperialist nation-states like the US and England.  Bono fronts two of these:  RED  – an AIDS activism organization; and  ONE which is his “humanitarian aid” organization now seeking to partner with the US Special Operations Command – one of the most murderous branches of the US military, responsible for carrying out assassinations and terrorist attacks against the many enemies of the US capitalist class.

Though it is true that both of these organizations have done some commendable work in their respective areas of concern, charities like this effectively cover up for the fact that it is the capitalist system itself that is responsible for the terrible human suffering that takes place in the world.  By collaborating with governments and military organizations that are primarily responsible for the vast majority of human suffering in the world, both ONE and RED serve to place a big “happy face” over the crimes being committed every day by the US Government and its military.  By organizing these NGOs these do-gooders trick millions of workers into believing that their pathetically small charitable donations are going to end poverty or make a serious impact on saving the lives of AIDS victims when in fact they allow the capitalist system to continue to kill tens of millions of people every year and prevent workers from organizing to get rid of the capitalist system which is the basis for all this unnecessary suffering.

Charity work can not solve these enormous problems; it will take a socialist revolution in the US and throughout the capitalist world to finally put the needs of hundreds of millions of suffering people at the forefront of all human activity on this planet.  A socialist United States of America would set as its goal not the mere “alleviation of extreme poverty” – which is the timid goal set by the United Nations Millennium Goals fraud, but to completely end poverty once and for all.  That would not be accomplished by penny-pinching charity but by a systematic planned effort to nationalize the pharmaceutical industry and then  mass-produce drugs  to ship to any place on Earth where they are needed – for free.  We would also send doctors and nurses and construction workers and all the supplies necessary to build hospitals, clinics and medical schools throughout the “third world” and train the workers there to become the medical professionals that would eradicate every preventable disease that now ravages much of the world’s 7 billion people.  Capitalist charity doesn’t solve poverty and human suffering – IT PROLONGS IT AND GUARANTEES ITS PERPETUATION!

Bono’s monumental ego probably leads him to believe, quite naively, that he is influencing organizations like SOCOM to be more “humanitarian”: but in fact it is Bono and his ONE organization that are being used quite openly and cynically to put a false humanitarian face on one of the most murderous ruling classes in world history: the US capitalist class and their mass-slaughtering war machine.  Not only does Bono reveal his own vast naiveté in doing this; he also exposes every one of ONE and RED’s international representatives to very legitimate reprisals against anyone who works with the murderous US military machine.  In short, Bono’s crappy politics are placing the lives of every decent person in his aid organizations at risk.

Here we present to our readers the open admission by none other than Four-Star General Raymond “Tony” Thomas, Commander, US Special Operations Command that his blood-soaked organization has been openly recruited by the idiot Bono to help him develop his “humanitarian aid” organization @ONE.  It was not the US military that sought to work with Bono: it was BONO who sought out the assistance of nothing less than the brutal US Special Operations Command to help him bring “humanitarian aid” to the desperate and starving people of the world.  This is like asking an organization representing wolves to come to the aid of an organization representing sheep!

SOCOM’s General Raymond Anthony “Tony” Thomas III isn’t the sweet and convivial guy he pretends to be in this video.  In fact he has been a key participant and leader of many of US imperialism’s most bloody and ruthless military operations of the past 40 years: from the  cowardly invasion of the tiny island of Grenada in 1983 to the savage and shameless invasion of Panama in 1989 to prevent US-backed strongman Manuel Noriega from spilling the beans on US Military/CIA drug trafficking operations in South and Central America during the Iran-Contra scandal; to the savage wars and counter-intelligence operations being run to this day by SOCOM in Iraq,  Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.  Gen. Thomas – that nice smiling, friendly fan of U2 – is in fact a blood-soaked war criminal, a lifelong servant of the mass-murdering US capitalist class!  There could be no better proof that the pathetic petit-bourgeois reformist Bono can’t tell his ass from a hole-in-the-ground politically than that he should seek to enlist US war criminal Gen. Thomas of SOCOM as a “humanitarian ally”!

In this amazing video, the head of the US Special Operations Command expresses his own astonishment that a rock star such as Bono would ask to work hand-in-glove with the US military.  But we wonder if this kind of co-operation between U2 and the US military hasn’t been going on since U2 was created and suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the late 1970s, during a punk-rock upsurge in which U2 seemed at the time to be totally out of sync with.  Is it possible that in a “Congress For Cultural Freedom”-like propaganda operation, U2 were created – or at least co=opted and then promoted – by UK and US intelligence agencies in order to create political pressure against the IRA and to get them to disarm and become the lame, housebroken “loyal opposition” they currently are?  And then once that mission was accomplished, U2 were used to create the US and UK-govt sponsored NGO @ONE which has just now been revealed as a collaborator of the US war machine?  You be the judge.  We just found out about this ourselves today so we are only now beginning our investigation into this scandal.

If you take the time to watch the entire video you will see that US War Criminal Gen. Thomas makes several far more important revelations about the US joint military operations with the Kurds in Iraq and Syria as well as an ominous threat of impending military attacks on the besieged North Korean degenerated workers state.   He represents the ongoing threat to human civilization posed by the continuation of the rule of the US capitalist class and their mass-murdering military.

— IWPCHI

[From the original YouTube channel of the Aspen Institute at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCqCnLjSx7M&t=30m26s:

“SOCOM: Policing The World – The Aspen Institute

Streamed live on Jul 21, 2017

“While this Administration’s approach to foreign crises mostly differs from that of its predecessor, there is at least one conspicuous exception, a heavy reliance on Special Operations Forces. Their commander explains the role SOCOM and SOF perennially play in responding to flash points around the globe and building partner-nation capacity to provide for their own defense.

“Featuring:
Raymond “Tony” Thomas, Commander, US Special Operations Command
Moderator: Catherine Herridge, Chief Intelligence Correspondent, Fox News”

U2 revelations begin at 30:05 of video.  Our transcript of the interview relating to the revelations about U2 follows below:

*******************

[Dialogue on this subject begins at 30:05 of video – IWPCHI]

Moderator: “Just to shift gears; you’re always looking for new partnerships, right?

Raymond “Tony” Thomas, Commander, US Special Operations Command: “Always”.

Mod: “Always. OK. So you met recently with the singer Bono or his team… right?

Thomas: Right

Mod: … you gonna work with him? Not …

Thomas: I hope so! This was str…

Mod: on stage, or…

Thomas: … this was strange… and, uh, actually, a member of his team’s here today. And we, we met with him to try to put some meat on these bones. Uh, but the interesting thing… uh… Bono came to… to Tampa with U2 – and I’m a huge U2 fan – so this… it was pretty easy when he said “hey can I meet with and General Luttell [ph – IWPCHI]?” [SOCOM shit laughs and gives “thumbs-up” sign] Yeah, rock on, let’s do this.

Mod: [laughs]

Audience: [laughs]

Thomas: … so, uh… so before one of the best concerts I could ever imagine, he spent about 40 minutes describing all his efforts through the “ONE Foundation” that he’s trying to do around the world. And the fascinating part was… he acknowledged… he said… early on, he said: “the last group of people I ever expected to be hanging around with was a bunch of military people!” And I thought about that for a second and I thought: “Yeah, because you have the perception that a lot of others do: that we’re just a bunch of knuckle-dragging pipe-swingers um… who… “call on ’em when you need to do something desperate but otherwise, how could they be helpful?” His [Bono’s – IWPCHI] late-life epiphany (he’s 54 years old) is that “you know what? All the humanitarian assistance that I’m trying to push around the world doesn’t happen without security; you [the US military – IWPCHI] seem to provide security and you seem to want to stabilize places – either ahead of time, before a conflict or as we’re wrapping up post-hostilities – might we do things together?” And I’m thinking: “Absolutely! You’ve got an 8-million-person organization that runs the gamut of… of positive humanitarian activities… um… that need the trappings of security or that need that kind of… you know… synergy and symbiotic relationship… sign us up!” So we’re trying to actively… and we’re global, like he’s global… so it’s kind of a ‘match made in heaven’ in terms of the opportunity. Now, again, ask me six months from now um… “have you done anything more than admire U2 music more than you did before”…

Mod: [laughs]

Thomas: … um, I hope I can tell you “here’s where we’re actually moving out” and it’s… and it’s a great… kind of… you know… um… ah… match of… varied capabilities that they’re doing… um… that are proven to… a lot of humanity.

Mod: Your plan is to try and make something work, right?

Thomas: And, and I think it’s free money. So why, uh, why not? Uh… He literally is offering the entree for…to.. uh… for… to marry up with his activities, so… and there’s others out there like him that, uh, I think we have not taken advantage of in the past. They’re also turning their focus on – which absolutely plays to our strong suit or to our party effort. Um.. they’re about countering violent extremism.

100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution: February 1917 – The Collapse of Czarism

We had originally intended to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Great October Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 by publishing articles month-by-month describing that month’s events as captured by one of the great Bolshevik leaders of 1917 Leon Trotsky in his incomparable “History of the Russian Revolution”.  For a number of reasons both technical and personal we have been unable to do this; however we hope to catch up with events in the next few days so we can get back on track with this series.

This installment goes back to February of 1917 and shows that the support for the Tsarist regime had completely collapsed long before Lenin, Trotsky and the other leading exiles had even returned to Russia.  The army, demoralized by the complete inability of the regime to supply it with even the most basic necessities at the front, had largely ceased to obey the orders of the generals.  The urban intelligentsia too sought nothing less than a constitutional monarchy with some kind of parliamentary system.  The working class and peasantry, bled white by the war, had become completely insurrectionary.  There was not a square foot of soil of Russia on which the Tsar and his regime could find firm footing or a place of safe refuge, as we shall see.

Contrary to the lying propaganda which we have always been subjected to by the anti-communist US Govt and its hireling historians, the Russian Revolution was not some kind of secret coup plot hatched by the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s tutelage.  The Russian Revolution occurred because it was simply no longer possible for the people of Russia to go on living in the old ways under the old regime for one day longer.  No small workers party – as the Bolshevik Party was in February 1917 – can magically stage a successful overthrow of any government without the support of at least a large section of the working class and the military – and in the case of Russia, the peasantry as well.  It was precisely the fact that the Bolsheviks alone among all the many contending political parties in Russia possessed the well-thought out revolutionary Marxist programme for the overthrow of Tsarism and the establishment of an egalitarian socialist workers republic that was necessary to obtain the support of the long-suffering Russian workers, soldiers and peasants.   Without a revolutionary Leninist vanguard party possessed of a truly revolutionary Marxist/Leninist programme it would have been impossible for the Bolshevik Revolution to occur; and it is as true today as it was in 1917 that until the workers of the United States organize themselves into a revolutionary socialist Leninist/Trotskyist vanguard party and successfully overthrows the rule of the US capitalist class – the most bloodthirsty regime on the planet today – we will remain trapped in the human slaughterhouse of imperialist capitalism until the next World War brings the entire human race to the brink of destruction.  The creation of a revolutionary socialist vanguard party of the working class right here in the USA is the most important task of our lifetimes.

This chapter of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution” describes how power was steadily stripped out of the hands of the Tsar and his ruling clique in February-March of 1917 by the insurgent workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia, with the Bolshevik Party playing just a small but very important and influential role among only a thin layer of the most politically advanced workers and soldiers.  The entire book can be read online at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/index.htm  Our text is taken from this online version.  Enjoy!

— IWPCHI

***********************************

Chapter 6
The Death Agony
of the Monarchy

 

The dynasty fell by shaking, like rotten fruit, before the revolution even had time to approach its first problems. Our portrayal of the old ruling class would remain incomplete if we did not try to show how the monarchy met the hour of its fall.

The czar was at headquarters at Moghilev, having gone there not because he was needed, but in flight from the Petrograd disorders. The court chronicler, General Dubensky, with the czar at headquarters, noted in his diary: “A quiet life begins here. Everything will remain as before. Nothing will come of his (the czar’s) presence. Only accidental external causes will change anything …” On February 24, the czarina wrote Nicholas at headquarters, in English as always: “I hope that Duma man Kedrinsky (she means Kerensky) will be hung for his horrible speeches-it is necessary (war-time law) and it will be an example. All are thirsting and beseeching that you show your firmness.” On February 25, a telegram came from the Minister of War that strikes were occurring in the capital, disorders beginning among the workers, but measures had been taken and there was nothing serious. In a word: “It isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last!”

The czarina, who had always taught the czar not to yield, here too tried to remain firm. On the 26th, with an obvious desire to hold up the shaky courage of Nicholas, she telegraphs him: “It is calm in the city.” But in her evening telegram she has to confess: “Things are not going at all well in the city.” In a letter she says: “You must say to the workers that they must not declare strikes, if they do, they will be sent to the front as a punishment. There is no need at all of shooting. Only order is needed, and not to let them cross the bridges.” Yes, only a little thing is needed, only order! But the chief thing is not to admit the workers into the city-let them choke in the raging impotence of their suburbs.

On the morning of the 27th, General Ivanov moves from the front with the Battalion of St. George, entrusted with dictatorial powers – which he is to make public, however, only upon occupying Tsarskoe Selo. “It would be hard to imagine a more unsuitable person.” General Denikin will recall later, himself having taken a turn at military dictatorship, “a flabby old man, meagrely grasping the political situation, possessing neither strength, nor energy, nor will, nor austerity.” The choice fell upon Ivanov through memories of the first revolution. Eleven years before that he had subdued Kronstadt. But those years had left their traces; the subduers had grown flabby, the subdued, strong. The northern and western fronts were ordered to get ready troops for the march on Petrograd; evidently everybody thought there was plenty of time ahead. Ivanov himself assumed that the affair would be ended soon and successfully; he even remembered to send out an adjutant to buy provisions in Moghilev for his friends in Petrograd.

On the morning of February 27, Rodzianko sent the czar a new telegram, which ended with the words: “The last hour has come when the fate of the fatherland and the dynasty is being decided.” The czar said to his Minister of the Court, Frederiks: “Again that fat-bellied Rodzianko has written me a lot of nonsense, which I won’t even bother to answer.” But no. It was not nonsense. He will have to answer.

About noon of the 27th, headquarters received a report from Khabalov of the mutiny of the Pavlovsky, Volynsky, Litovsky and Preobrazhensky regiments, and the necessity of sending reliable troops from the front. An hour later from the War Ministry came a most reassuring telegram: “The disorders which began this morning in certain military units are being firmly and energetically put down by companies and battalions loyal to their duty … I am firmly convinced of an early restoration of tranquility.” However, a little after seven in the evening, the same minister, Belyaev, is reporting that “We are not succeeding in putting down the military rebellion with the few detachments that remain loyal to their duty,” and requesting a speedy dispatch of really reliable troops-and that too in sufficient numbers “for simultaneous activity in different parts of the city.”

The Council of Ministers deemed this a suitable day to remove from their midst the presumed cause of all misfortunes – the half-crazy Minister of the Interior Protopopov. At the same time General Khabalov issued an edict – prepared in secrecy from the government – declaring Petrograd, on His Majesty’s orders, under martial law. So here too was an attempt to mix hot with cold – hardly intentional, however, and anyway of no use. They did not even succeed in pasting up the declaration of martial law through the city: the burgomaster, Balka, could find neither paste nor brushes. Nothing would stick together for those functionaries any longer; they already belonged to the kingdom of shades.

The principal shade of the last czarist ministry was the seventy-year old Prince Golytsin, who had formerly conducted some sort of eleemosynary institutions of the czarina, and had been advanced by her to the post of head of the government in a period of war and revolution. When friends asked this “good-natured Russian squire, this old weakling” – as the liberal Baron Nolde described him – why he accepted such a troublesome position, Golytsin answered: “So as to have one more pleasant recollection.” This aim, at any rate, he did not achieve. How the last czarist government felt in those hours is attested by Rodzianko in the following tale: With the first news of the movement of a crowd toward the Mariinsky Palace, where the Ministry was in session, all the lights in the building were immediately put out. (The government wanted only one thing – that the revolution should not notice it.) The rumour, however, proved false; the attack did not take place; and when the lights were turned on, one of the members of the czarist government was found “to his own surprise” under the table. What kind of recollections he was accumulating there has not been established.

But Rodzianko’s own feelings apparently were not at their highest point. After a long but vain hunt for the government by telephone, the President of the Duma tries again to ring up Prince Golytsin. The latter answers him: “I beg you not to come to me with anything further, I have resigned.” Hearing this news, Rodzianko, according to his loyal secretary, sank heavily in an armchair and covered his face with both hands.

My “God, how horrible! … Without a government … Anarchy … Blood …” and softly wept. At the expiring of the senile ghost of the czarist power Rodzianko felt unhappy, desolate, orphaned. How far he was at that moment from the thought that tomorrow he would have to “ head” a revolution!

The telephone answer of Golytsin is explained by the fact that on the evening of the 27th the Council of Ministers had definitely acknowledged itself incapable of handling the situation, and proposed to the czar to place at the head of the government a man enjoying general confidence. The czar answered Golytsin: “In regard to changes in the personal staff in the present circumstances, I consider that inadmissible. Nicholas.” Just what circumstances was he waiting for? At the same time the czar demanded that they adopt “the most decisive measures” for putting down the rebellion. That was easier said than done.

On the next day, the 28th, even the untamable czarina at last loses heart. “Concessions are necessary,” she telegraphs Nicholas. “The strikes continue; many troops have gone over to the side of the revolution. Alex.”

It required an insurrection of the whole guard, the entire garrison, to compel this Hessian zealot of autocracy to agree that “concessions are necessary.” Now the czar also begins to suspect that the “fat-bellied Rodzianko” had not telegraphed nonsense. Nicholas decides to join his family. It is possible that he is a little gently pushed from behind by the generals of the staff, too, who are not feeling quite comfortable.

The czar’s train travelled at first without mishap. Local chiefs and governors came out as usual to meet him. Far from the revolutionary whirlpool, in his accustomed royal car, surrounded by the usual suite, the czar apparently again lost a sense of the close coming crisis. At three o’clock on the 28th, when the events had already settled his fate, he sent a telegram to the czarina from Vyazma: “Wonderful weather. Hope you are well and calm. Many troops sent from the front. With tender love. Niki.” Instead of the concessions, upon which even the czarina is insisting, the tenderly loving czar is sending troops from the front. But in spite of that “wonderful weather,” in just a few hours the czar will stand face to face with the revolutionary storm. His train went as far as the Visher station. The railroad workers would not let it go farther: “The bridge is damaged.” Most likely this pretext was invented by the courtiers themselves in order to soften the situation. Nicholas tried to make his way, or they tried to get him through, by way of Bologoe on the Nikolaevsk railroad; but here, too, the workers would not let the train pass. This was far more palpable than all the Petrograd telegrams. The Czar had broken away from headquarters, and could not make his way to the capital. With its simple railroad “pawns” the revolution had cried “check” to the king!

The court historian Dubensky, who accompanied the Czar in his train, writes in his diary: “ Everybody realises that this midnight turn at Visher is a historical night … To me it is perfectly clear that the question of a constitution is settled; it will surely be introduced … Everybody is saying that it is only necessary to strike a bargain with them, with the members of the Provisional Government.” Facing a lowered semaphore, behind which mortal danger is thickening, Count Frederiks, Prince Dolgoruky, Count Leuchtenberg, all of them, all those high lords, are now for a constitution. They no longer think of struggling. It is only necessary to strike a bargain, that is, try to fool them again as in 1905.

While the train was wandering and finding no road, the Czarina was sending the Czar telegram after telegram, appealing to him to return as soon as possible. But her telegrams came back to her from the office with the inscription in blue pencil: “Whereabouts of the addressee unknown.” The telegraph clerks were unable to locate the Russian czar.

The regiments marched with music and banners to the Tauride Palace. A company of the Guards marched under the command of Cyril Vladimirovich, who had quite suddenly, according to Countess Kleinmichel, developed a revolutionary streak. The sentries disappeared. The intimates were abandoning the palace. “Everybody was saving himself who could,” relates Vyrubova. Bands of revolutionary soldiers wandered about the palace and with eager curiosity looked over everything. Before they had decided up above what should be done, the lower ranks were converting the palace of the Czar into a museum.

The Czar – his location unknown – turns back to Pskov, to the headquarters of the northern front, commanded by the old General Ruszky. In the czar’s suite one suggestion follows another. The Czar procrastinates. He is still reckoning in days and weeks, while the revolution is keeping its count in minutes.

The poet Blok characterised the Czar during the last months of the monarchy as follows: “Stubborn, but without will; nervous, but insensitive to everything; distrustful of people, taut and cautious in speech, he was no longer master of himself. He had ceased to understand the situation, and did not take one clearly conscious step, but gave himself over completely into the hands of those whom he himself had placed in power.” And how much these traits of tautness and lack of will, cautiousness and distrust, were to increase during the last days of February and first days of March!

Nicholas finally decided to send – and nevertheless evidently did not send – a telegram to the hated Rodzianko stating that for the salvation of the fatherland he appointed him to form a new ministry, reserving, however, the ministries of foreign affairs, war and marine for himself. The Czar still hoped to bargain with “them”: the “many troops,” after all, were on their way to Petrograd.

General Ivanov actually arrived without hindrance at Tsarskoe Selo: evidently the railroad workers did not care to come in conflict with the Battalion of St. George. The general confessed later that he had three or four times found it necessary on the march to use fatherly influence with the lower ranks, who were impudent to him: he made them get down on their knees. Immediately upon the arrival of the “dictator” in Tsarskoe Selo, the local authorities informed him that an encounter between the Battalion of St. George and the troops would mean danger to the czar’s family. They were simply afraid for themselves, and advised the dictator to go back without detraining.

General Ivanov telegraphed to the other “dictator,” Khabalov, in Petrograd ten questions, to which he received succinct answers: We will quote them in full, for they deserve it:

Ivanov’s questions: Khabalov’s replies:
1. How many troops are in order and how many are misbehaving? 1. I have at my disposal in the Admiralty building four companies of the Guard, five squadrons of cavalry and Cossacks, and two batteries the rest of the troops have gone over to the revolutionists, or by agreement with them are remaining neutral. Soldiers are wandering through the towns singly or in bands disarming officers.
2. Which railroad stations are guarded? 2. All the stations are in the hands of the revolutionists and strictly guarded by them.
3. In what parts of the city is order preserved? 3. The whole city is in the hands of the revolutionists. The telephone is not working, there is no communication between different parts of the city.
4. What authorities are governing the different parts of the city? 4. I cannot answer this question.
5. Are all the ministries functioning properly? 5. The ministers have been arrested by the revolutionists.
6. What police forces are at your disposal at the present moment? 6. None whatever .
7. What technical and supply institutions of the War Department are now in your control? 7. I have none.
8. What quantity of provisions at is at your disposal? 8. There are no provisions my disposal. In the city on February 5 there were 5,600,000 pounds of flour in store.
9. Have many weapons, artillery and military stores fallen into the hands of the mutineers? 9. All the artillery establishments are in the hands of the revolutionists.
10. What military forces and the staffs are in your control? 10. The chief of the Staff of District is in my personal control. With the other district administrations I have no connections.

Having received this unequivocal illumination as to the situation, General Ivanov “agreed” to turn back his echelon without detraining to the station “Dno.” [1] “Thus,” concludes one of the chief personages of the staff, General Lukomsky, “nothing came of the expedition of General Ivanov with dictatorial powers but a public disgrace.”

That disgrace, incidentally, was a very quiet one, sinking unnoticed in the billowing events. The dictator, we may suppose, delivered the provisions to his friends in Petrograd, and had a long chat with the Czarina. She referred to her self-sacrificing work in the hospitals, and complained of the ingratitude of the army and the people.

During this time news was arriving at Pskov by way of Moghilev, blacker and blacker. His Majesty’s own bodyguard, in which every soldier was known by name and coddled by the royal family, turned up at the State Duma asking permission to arrest those officers who had refused to take part in the insurrection. Vice-Admiral Kurovsky reported that he found it impossible to take any measures to put down the insurrection at Kronstadt, since he could not vouch for the loyalty of a single detachment. Admiral Nepenin telegraphed that the Baltic Fleet had recognised the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. The Moscow commander-in-chief, Mrozovsky, telegraphed: “A majority of the troops have gone over with artillery to the revolutionists. The whole town is therefore in their hands. The burgomaster and his aide have left the city hall.” Have left means that they fled.

All this was communicated to the Czar on the evening of March 1. Deep into the night they coaxed and argued about a responsible ministry. Finally, at two o’clock in the morning the Czar gave his consent, and those around him drew a sigh of relief. Since they took it for granted that this would settle the problem of the revolution, an order was issued at the same time that the troops which had been sent to Petrograd to put down the insurrection should return to the front. Ruszky hurried at dawn to convey the good news to Rodzianko. But the czar’s clock was way behind. Rodzianko in the Tauride Palace, already buried under a pile of democrats, socialists, soldiers, workers’ deputies, replied to Ruszky: “Your proposal is not enough; it is now a question of the dynasty itself. . . . Everywhere the troops are taking the side of the Duma, and the people are demanding an abdication in favour of the Heir with Mikhail Alexandrovich as regent.” Of course. the troops never thought of demanding either the Heir or Mikhail Alexandrovich. Rodzianko merely attributed to the troops and the people that slogan upon which the Duma was still hoping to stop the revolution. But in either case the Czar’s concession had come too late: “The anarchy has reached such proportions that I (Rodzianko) was this night compelled to appoint a Provisional Government. Unfortunately, the edict has come too late …” These majestic words bear witness that the President of the Duma had succeeded in drying the tears shed over Golytsin. The czar read the conversation between Rodzianko and Ruszky, and hesitated, read it over again, and decided to wait. But now the military chiefs had begun to sound the alarm: the matter concerned them too a little!

General Alexeiev carried out during the hours of that night a sort of plebiscite among the commanders-in-chief at the fronts. It is a good thing present-day revolutions are accomplished with the help of the telegraph, so that the very first impulses and reactions of those in power are preserved to history on the tape. The conversations of the czarist field-marshals on the night of March 1-2 are an incomparable human document. Should the czar abdicate or not? The commander-in-chief of the western front, General Evert, consented to give his opinion only after Generals Ruszky and Brussilov had expressed themselves. The commander-in-chief of the Roumanian front, General Sakharov, demanded that before he express himself the conclusions of all the other commanders-in-chief should be communicated to him. After long delays this valiant chieftain announced that his warm love for the monarch would not permit his soul to reconcile itself with an acceptance of the “base suggestion”; nevertheless, “with sobs” he advised the Czar to abdicate in order to avoid “still viler pretensions.” Adjutant-General Evert quite reasonably explained the necessity for capitulation: “I am taking all measures to prevent information as to the present situation in the capital from penetrating the army, in order to protect it against indubitable disturbances. No means exist for putting down the revolution in the capitals.” Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolajevich on the Caucasian front beseeched the Czar on bended knee to adopt the “supermeasure” and renounce the throne. A similar prayer came from Generals Alexeiev and Brussilov and Admiral Nepenin. Ruszky spoke orally to the same effect. The generals respectfully presented seven revolver barrels to the temple of the adored monarch. Fearing to let slip the moment for reconciliation with the new power, and no less fearing their own troops, these military chieftains, accustomed as they were to surrendering positions, gave the czar and the High Commander-in-Chief a quite unanimous counsel: retire without fighting. This was no longer distant Petrograd against which, as it seemed, one might send troops; this was the front from which the troops had to be borrowed.

Having listened to this suggestively circumstanced report, the Czar decided to abdicate the throne which he no longer possessed. A telegram to Rodzianko suitable to the occasion was drawn up: “There is no sacrifice that I would not make in the name of the real welfare and salvation of my native mother Russia. Thus I am ready to abdicate the throne in favor of my son, and in order that he may remain with me until he is of age, under the regency of my brother, Mikhail Alexandrovich. Nicholas.” This telegram too, however, was not dispatched, for news came from the capital of the departure for Pskov of the deputies Guchkov and Shulgin. This offered a new pretext to postpone the decision. The Czar ordered the telegram returned to him. He obviously dreaded to sell too cheap, and still hoped for comforting news – or more accurately, hoped for a miracle. Nicholas received the two deputies at twelve o’clock midnight March 2-8. The miracle did not come, and it was impossible to evade longer. The czar unexpectedly announced that he could not part with his son – what vague hopes were then wandering in his head? – and signed an abdication in favor of his brother. At the same time edicts to the Senate were signed, naming Prince Lvov President of the Council of Ministers, and Nikolai Nikolaievich Supreme Commander-in-Chief. The family suspicions of the czarina seemed to have been justified: the hated “Nikolasha” came back to power along with the conspirators. Guchkov apparently seriously believed that the revolution would accept the Most August War Chief. The latter also accepted his appointment in good faith. He even tried for a few days to give some kind of orders and make appeals for the fulfillment of patriotic duty. However the revolution painlessly removed him.

In order to preserve the appearance of a free act, the abdication was dated three o’clock in the afternoon, on the pretense that the original decision of the Czar to abdicate had taken place at that hour. But as a matter of fact that afternoon’s “decision,” which gave the sceptre to his son and not to his brother, had been taken back in anticipation of a more favorable turn of the wheel. Of that, however, nobody spoke out loud. The Czar made a last effort to save his face before the hated deputies, who upon their part permitted this falsification of a historic act – this deceiving of the people. The monarchy retired from the scene preserving its usual style; and its successors also remained true to themselves. They probably even regarded their connivance as the magnanimity of a conqueror to the conquered.

Departing a little from the phlegmatic style of his diary, Nicholas writes on March 2: “This morning Ruszky came and read me a long conversation over the wire with Rodzianko. According to his words the situation in Petrograd is such that a ministry of the members of the State Duma will be powerless to do anything, for it is being opposed by the social-democratic party in the person of a workers’ committee. My abdication is necessary. Ruszky transmitted this conversation to Alexeiev at headquarters and to all the commanders-in-chief. Answers arrived at 12.30. To save Russia and keep the army at the front, I decided upon this step. I agreed, and they sent from headquarters the text of an abdication. In the evening came Guchkov and Shulgin from Petrograd, with whom I talked it over and gave them the document amended and signed. At 1 o’clock in the morning I left Pskov with heavy feelings; around me treason, cowardice, deceit.”

The bitterness of Nicholas was, we must confess, not without foundation. It was only as short a time ago as February 28, that General Alexeiev had telegraphed to all the commanders-in-chief at the front: “ Upon us all lies a sacred duty before the sovereign and the fatherland to preserve loyalty to oath and duty in the troops of the active army.” Two days later Alexeiev appealed to these same commanders-in-chief to violate their “loyalty to oath and duty.” In all the commanding staff there was not found one man to take action in behalf of his Czar. They all hastened to transfer to the ship of the revolution, firmly expecting to find comfortable cabins there. Generals and admirals one and all removed the czarist braid and put on the red ribbon. There was news subsequently of one single righteous soul, some commander of a corps, who died of heart failure taking the new oath. But it is not established that his heart failed through injured monarchist feelings, and not through other causes. The civil officials naturally were not obliged to show more courage than the military – each one was saving himself as he could.

But the clock of the monarchy decidedly did not coincide with the revolutionary clocks. At dawn of March 8, Ruszky was again summoned to the direct wire from the capital: Rodzianko and Prince Lvov were demanding that he hold up the czar’s abdication, which had again proved too late. The installation of Alexei – said the new authorities evasively – might perhaps be accepted – by whom? – but the installation of Mikhail was absolutely unacceptable. Ruszky with some venom expressed his regret that the deputies of the Duma who had arrived the night before had not been sufficiently informed as to the aims and purposes of their journey. But here too the deputies had their justification. “Unexpectedly to us all there broke out such a soldiers’ rebellion as I never saw the like of,” explained the Lord Chamberlain to Ruszky, as though he had done nothing all his life but watch soldiers’ rebellions. “To proclaim Mikhail emperor would pour oil on the fire and there would begin a ruthless extermination of everything that can be exterminated.” How it whirls and shakes and bends and contorts them all!

The generals silently swallowed this new “vile pretension” of the revolution. Alexeiev alone slightly relieved his spirit in a telegraphic bulletin to the commanders-in-chief: “The left parties and the workers’ deputies are exercising a powerful pressure upon the President of the Duma, and there is no frankness or sincerity in the communications of Rodzianko.” The only thing lacking to the generals in those hours was sincerity.

But at this point the Czar again changed his mind. Arriving in Moghilev from Pskov, he handed to his former chief-of-staff, Alexeiev, for transmission to Petrograd, a sheet of paper with his consent to the handing over of the sceptre to his son. Evidently he found this combination in the long run more promising. Alexeiev, according to Denikin’s story, went away with the telegram and … did not send it. He thought that those two manifestos which had already been published to the army and the country were enough. The discord arose from the fact that not only the Czar and his counsellors, but also the Duma liberals, were thinking more slowly than the revolution.

Before his final departure from Moghilev on March 8, the Czar, already under formal arrest, wrote an appeal to the troops ending with these words: “Whoever thinks now of peace, whoever desires it, that man is a traitor to the fatherland, its betrayer.” This was in the nature of a prompted attempt to snatch out of the hands of liberalism the accusation of Germanophilism. The attempt had no result: they did not even dare publish the appeal.

Thus ended a reign which had been a continuous chain of ill luck, failure, misfortune, and evil-doing, from the Khodynka catastrophe during the coronation, through the shooting of strikers and revolting peasants, the Russo-Japanese war, the frightful putting-down of the revolution of 1905, the innumerable executions, punitive expeditions and national pogroms and ending with the insane and contemptible participation of Russia in the insane and contemptible world war.

Upon arriving at Tsarskoe Selo, where he and his family were confined in the palace, the czar, according to Vyrubova, softly said: “There is no justice among men.” But those very words irrefutably testify that historic justice, though it comes late, does exist.


The similarity of the Romanov couple to the French royal pair of the epoch of the Great Revolution is very obvious. It has already been remarked in literature, but only in passing and without drawing inferences. Nevertheless it is not at all accidental, as appears at the first glance, but offers valuable material for an inference.

Although separated from each other by five quarter centuries, the Czar and the King were at certain moments like two actors playing the same rôle. A passive, patient, but vindictive treachery was the distinctive trait of both – with this difference, that in Louis it was disguised with a dubious kindliness, in Nicholas with affability. They both make the impression of people who are overburdened by their job, but at the same time unwilling to give up even a part of those rights of which they are unable to make any use. The diaries of both, similar in style or lack of style, reveal the same depressing spiritual emptiness.

The Austrian woman and the Hessian German form also a striking symmetry. Both Queens stand above their Kings, not only in physical but also in moral growth. Marie Antoinette was less pious than Alexandra Feodorovna, and unlike the latter was passionately fond of pleasures. But both alike scorned the people, could not endure the thought of concessions, alike mistrusted the courage of their husbands, looking down upon them – Antoinette with a shade of contempt, Alexandra with pity.

When the authors of memoirs, approaching the Petersburg court of their day, assure us that Nicholas II, had he been a private individual, would have left a good memory behind him, they merely reproduce the long-ago stereotyped remarks about Louis XVI, not enriching in the least our knowledge either of history or of human nature.

We have already seen how Prince Lvov became indignant when, at the height of the tragic events of the first revolution, instead of a depressed Czar, he found before him a “jolly, sprightly little man in a raspberry-coloured shirt.” Without knowing it, the prince merely repeated the comment of Gouvernor Morris writing in Washington in 1790 about Louis: “What will you have from a creature who, situated as he is, eats and drinks and sleeps well, and laughs and is as merry a grig as lives?”

When Alexandra Feodorovna, three months before the fall of the monarchy, prophesies: “All is coming out for the best, the dreams of our Friend mean so much!” she merely repeats Marie Antoinette, who one month before the overthrow of the royal power wrote: “ I feel a liveliness of spirit, and something tells me that we shall soon be happy and safe.” They both see rainbow dreams as they drown.

Certain elements of similarity of course are accidental, and have the interest only of historic anecdotes. Infinitely more important are those traits of character which have been grafted, or more directly imposed, on a person by the mighty force of conditions, and which throw a sharp light on the interrelation of personality and the objective factors of history.

“He did not know how to wish: that was his chief trait of character,” says a reactionary French historian of Louis. Those words might have been written of Nicholas: neither of them knew how to wish, but both knew how to not wish. But what really could be “wished” by the last representatives of a hopelessly lost historic cause? “Usually he listened, smiled, and rarely decided upon anything. His first word was usually No.” Of whom is that written? Again of Capet. But if this is so, the manners of Nicholas were an absolute plagiarism. They both go toward the abyss “with the crown pushed down over their eyes.” But would it after all be easier to go to an abyss, which you cannot escape anyway, with your eyes open? What difference would it have made, as a matter of fact, if they had pushed the crown way back on their heads?

Some professional psychologist ought to draw up an anthology of the parallel expressions of Nicholas and Louis, Alexandra and Antoinette, and their courtiers. There would be no lack of material, and the result would be a highly instructive historic testimony in favor of the materialist psychology. Similar (of course, far from identical) irritations in similar conditions call out similar reflexes; the more powerful the irritation, the sooner it overcomes personal peculiarities. To a tickle, people react differently, but to a red-hot iron, alike. As a steam-hammer converts a sphere and a cube alike into sheet metal, so under the blow of too great and inexorable events resistances are smashed and the boundaries of “individuality” lost.

Louis and Nicholas were the last-born of a dynasty that had lived tumultuously. The well-known equability of them both, their tranquillity and “gaiety ” in difficult moments, were the well-bred expression of a meagreness of inner powers, a weakness of the nervous discharge, poverty of spiritual resources. Moral castrates, they were absolutely deprived of imagination and creative force. They had just enough brains to feel their own triviality, and they cherished an envious hostility toward everything gifted and significant. It fell to them both to rule a country in conditions of deep inner crisis and popular revolutionary awakening. Both of them fought off the intrusion of new ideas, and the tide of hostile forces. Indecisiveness, hypocrisy, and lying were in both cases the expression, not so much of personal weakness, as of the complete impossibility of holding fast to their hereditary positions.

And how was it with their wives? Alexandra, even more than Antoinette, was lifted to the very heights of the dreams of a princess, especially such a rural one as this Hessian, by her marriage with the unlimited despot of a powerful country. Both of them were filled to the brim with the consciousness of their high mission: Antoinette more frivolously, Alexandra in a spirit of Protestant bigotry translated into the Slavonic language of the Russian Church. An unlucky reign and a growing discontent of the people ruthlessly destroyed the fantastic world which these two enterprising but nevertheless chicken-like heads had built for themselves. Hence the growing bitterness, the gnawing hostility to an alien people that would not bow before them; the hatred toward ministers who wanted to give even a little consideration to that hostile world, to the country; hence their alienation even from their own court, and their continued irritation against a husband who had not fulfilled the expectations aroused by him as a bridegroom.

Historians and biographers of the psychological tendency not infrequently seek and find something purely personal and accidental where great historical forces are refracted through a personality. This is the same fault of vision as that of the courtiers who considered the last Russian Czar born “unlucky.” He himself believed that he was born under an unlucky star. In reality his ill-luck flowed from the contradictions between those old aims which he inherited from his ancestors and the new historic conditions in which he was placed. When the ancients said that Jupiter first makes mad those who whom he wishes to destroy, they summed up in superstitious form a profound historic observation. In the saying of Goethe about reason becoming nonsense – “Vernunft wird Unsinn” – this same thought is expressed about the impersonal Jupiter of the historical dialectic, which withdraws “reason” from historic institutions that have outlived themselves and condemns their defenders to failure. The scripts for the rôles of Romanov and Capet were prescribed by the general development of the historic drama; only the nuances of interpretation fell to the lot of the actors. The ill-luck of Nicholas, as of Louis, had its roots not in his personal horoscope, but in the historical horoscope of the bureaucratic-caste monarchy. They were both, chiefly and above all, the last-born offspring of absolutism. Their moral insignificance, deriving from their dynastic epigonism, gave the latter an especially malignant character.

You might object: if Alexander III had drunk less he might have lived a good deal longer, the revolution would have run into a very different make of czar, and no parallel with Louis XVI would have been possible. Such an objection, however, does not refute in the least what has been said above. We do not at all pretend to deny the significance of the personal in the mechanics of the historic process, nor the significance in the personal of the accidental. We only demand that a historic personality, with all its peculiarities, should not be taken as a bare list of psychological traits, but as a living reality grown out of definite social conditions and reacting upon them. As a rose does not lose its fragrance because the natural scientist points out upon what ingredients of soil and atmosphere it is nourished, so an exposure of the social roots of a personality does not remove from it either its aroma or its foul smell.

The consideration advanced above about a possible long life of Alexander III is capable of illuming this very problem from another side. Let us assume that this Alexander III had not become mixed up in 1904 in a war with Japan. This would have delayed the first revolution. For how long? It is possible that the “revolution of 1905” – that is, the first test of strength the first breach in the system of absolutism – would have been a mere introduction to the second, republican, and the third, proletarian revolution. Upon this question more or less interesting guesses are possible, but it is indubitable in any case that the revolution did not result from the character of Nicholas II, and that Alexander III would not have solved its problem. It is enough to remember that nowhere and never was the transition from the feudal to the bourgeois régime made without violent disturbances. We saw this only yesterday in China; today we observe it again in India. The most we can say is that this or that policy of the monarchy, this or that personality of the monarch, might have hastened or postponed the revolution and placed a certain imprint on its external course.

With what angry and impotent stubbornness charisma tried to defend itself in those last months, weeks and days, when its game was hopelessly lost! If Nicholas himself lacked the will the lack was made up by the Czarina. Rasputin was an instrument of the action of a clique which rabidly fought for self-preservation. Even on this narrow scale the personality of the Czar merges in a group which represents the coagulum of the past and its last convulsion. The “policy” of the upper circles a Tsarskoe Selo, face to face with the revolution, were but the reflexes of a poisoned and weak beast of prey. If you chase a wolf over the steppe in an automobile, the beast gives out at last and lies down impotent. But attempt to put a collar on him and he will try to tear you to pieces, or at least wound you.  And indeed what else can he do in the circumstances?

The liberals imagined there was something else he might do. Instead of coming to an agreement with the enfranchised bourgeoisie in good season and thus preventing the revolution — such is liberalism’s act of accusation against the last czar – Nicholas stubbornly shrank from concessions, and even in the last days when already under the knife of destiny, when every minute was to be counted, still kept on procrastinating, bargaining with fate, and letting slip the last possibilities. This all sounds convincing. But how unfortunate that liberalism, knowing so accurately how to save the monarchy, did not know how to save itself!

It would be absurd to maintain that czarism never and in no circumstances made concessions. It made them when they were demanded by the necessity of self-preservation. After the Crimean defeat, Alexander II carried out the semi-liberation of the peasants and a series of liberal reforms in the sphere of land administration, courts, press, educational institutions, etc. The czar himself expressed the guiding thought of this reformation: to free the peasants from above lest they free themselves from below. Under the drive of the first revolution Nicholas II granted a semi-constitution. Stolypin scrapped the peasant communes in order to broaden the arena of the capitalist forces. For czarism, however, all these reforms had a meaning only in so far as the partial concession preserved the whole – that is, the foundations of a caste society and the monarchy itself. When the consequences of the reform began to splash over those boundaries the monarchy inevitably beat a retreat. Alexander II in the second half of his reign stole back the reforms of the first half. Alexander III went still farther on the road of counter-reform. Nicholas II in October 1905 retreated before the revolution, and then afterward dissolved the Dumas created by it, and as soon as the revolution grew weak, made his coup d’état. Throughout three-quarters of a century – if we begin with the reform of Alexander II – there developed a struggle of historic forces, now underground, now in the open, far transcending the personal qualities of the separate Czars, and accomplishing the overthrow of the monarchy. Only within the historic framework of this process can you find a place for individual Czars, their characters, their “biographies.”

Even the most despotic of autocrats is but little similar to a “free” individuality laying its arbitrary imprint upon events. He is always the crowned agent of the privileged classes which are forming society in their own image. When these classes have not yet fulfilled their mission, then the monarchy is strong and self-confident. Then it has in its hands a reliable apparatus power and an unlimited choice of executives –because the more gifted people have not yet gone over into the hostile camp. Then the monarch, either personally, or through the mediation of a powerful favorite, may become the agent of a great and progressive historic task. It is quite otherwise when the sun of the old society is finally declining to the west. The privileged classes are now changed from organisers of the national life into a parasitic growth; having lost their guiding function, they lose the consciousness of their mission and all confidence in their powers. Their dissatisfaction with themselves becomes a dissatisfaction with the monarchy; the dynasty becomes isolated; the circle of people loyal to the death narrows down; their level sinks lower; meanwhile the dangers grow; new force are pushing up; the monarchy loses its capacity for any kin of creative initiative; it defends itself, it strikes back, it retreats; its activities acquire the automatism of mere reflexes. The semi Asiatic despotism of the Romanovs did not escape this fate.

If you take the czarism in its agony, in a vertical section, so to speak, Nicholas is the axis of a clique which has its roots the hopelessly condemned past. In a horizontal section of the historic monarchy, Nicholas is the last link in a dynastic chain. His nearest ancestors, who also in their day were merged in family, caste and bureaucratic collectivity – only a broader one – tried out various measures and methods of government order to protect the old social régime against the fate advancing upon it. But nevertheless they passed it on to Nicholas a chaotic empire already carrying the matured revolution in its womb. If he had any choice left, it was only between different roads to ruin.

Liberalism was dreaming of a monarchy on the British plan. But was parliamentarism born on the Thames by a peaceful evolution? Was it the fruit of the “free” foresight of a single monarch? No, it was deposited as the result of a struggle that lasted for ages, and in which one of the kings left his head at the crossroads.

The historic-psychological contrast mentioned above between the Romanovs and the Capets can, by the way, be aptly extended to the British royal pair of the epoch of the first revolution. Charles I revealed fundamentally the same combination of traits with which memoirists and historians have endowed Louis XVI and Nicholas II. “Charles, therefore, remained passive,” writes Montague, “yielded where he could not resist, betrayed how unwillingly he did so, and reaped no popularity, no confidence.” “He was not a stupid man,” says another historian of Charles Stuart, “but he lacked firmness of character … His evil fate was his wife, Henrietta, a Frenchwoman, sister of Louis XIII, saturated even more than Charles with the idea of absolutism.” We will not detail the characteristics of this third – chronologically first – royal pair to be crushed by a national revolution. We will merely observe that in England the hatred was concentrated above all on the queen, as a Frenchwoman and a papist, whom they accused of plotting with Rome, secret connections with the Irish rebels, and intrigues at the French court.

But England had, at any rate, ages at her disposal. She was the pioneer of bourgeois civilisation; she was not under the yoke of other nations, but on the contrary held them more and more under her yoke. She exploited the whole world. This softened the inner contradictions, accumulated conservatism, promoted an abundance and stability of fatty deposits in the form of a parasitic caste, in the form of a squirearchy, a monarchy, House of Lords, and the state church. Thanks to this exclusive historic privilege of development possessed by bourgeois England, conservatism combined with elasticity passed over from her institutions into her moral fibre. Various continental Philistines, like the Russian professor Miliukov, or the Austro-Marxist Otto Bauer, have not to this day ceased going into ecstasies over this fact. But exactly at the present moment, when England, hard pressed throughout the world, is squandering the last resources of her former privileged position, her conservatism is losing its elasticity, and even in the person of the Labourites is turning into stark reactionism. In the face of the Indian revolution the “socialist” MacDonald will find no other methods but those with which Nicholas II opposed the Russian revolution. Only a blind man could fail to see that Great Britain is headed for gigantic revolutionary earthquake shocks, in which the last fragments of her conservatism, her world domination, her present state machine, will go down without a trace. MacDonald is preparing these shocks no less successfully than did Nicholas II in time, and no less blindly. So here too, as we see, is no poor illustration of the problem of the rôle of the “free” personality in history.

But how could Russia with her belated development, coming along at the tail end of the European nations, with her meagre economic foundation underfoot, how could she develop an “elastic conservatism” of social forms-and develop it for the special benefit of professorial liberalism and its leftward shadow, reformist socialism? Russia was too far behind. And when world imperialism once took her in its grip, she had to pass through her political history in too brief a course. If Nicholas had gone to meet liberalism and replaced one with Miliukov, the development of events would have differed a little in form, not in substance. Indeed it was just in this way that Louis behaved in the second stage of the revolution, summoning the Gironde to power: this did not save Louis himself from guillotine, nor after him the Gironde. The accumulating social contradictions were bound to break through to the surface, breaking through to carry out their work of purgation. Before the pressure of the popular masses, who had at last brought into the open arena their misfortunes, their pains, intentions, passions, hopes, illusions and aims, the high-up combination of the monarchy with liberalism had only an episodic significance. They could exert, to be sure, an influence on the order of events maybe upon the number of actions, but not at all upon development of the drama nor its momentous climax.


Notes

1. The name of this station is also the Russian word meaning “bottom.” [Trans.]

The French Revolution Didn’t Start on Bastille Day: Peter Kropotkin’s “The Great French Revolution”

In the United States, workers have long been taught to believe that the greatest revolution of all times was of course the American Revolution of 1776 which overthrew monarchical rule in favor of the rule of the nascent bourgeoisie and landed slave-owning aristocracy of the thirteen English colonies in the New World.  But as world-historic and impressive as that revolution was, it was almost immediately surpassed by the much more thorough-going revolution it inspired in that King-ruled nation whose military aid to the American colonial rebels was the chief reason why the colonies won the war against Great Britain: France.

The military aid which the French King Louis XVI gave to the Americans essentially won the war for the revolutionaries when the French Navy – some 29 ships strong – appeared in Chesapeake Bay to slam the door shut on any hope Cornwallis had of escaping the trap that had been sprung upon him by George Washington and the numerically superior French troops and their officers at Yorktown in 1781.  There were more French soldiers with artillery present on the battlefield at this “Great American Victory” than there were Americans (up to 8800 French vs 8000 Americans – not counting the decisive 29 French ships of the line and their crews).  The French very magnanimously allowed Washington the honor of accepting Cornwallis’ surrender.

Yet the French aid to the American revolution came at a high cost for the French monarchy whose finances, in a precarious condition even before the American Revolution began, were driven to the breaking point by the war with England that was a result of the French aid to the rebellious colonists.  A series of bad harvests in France further reduced the taxes that could be levied on the people of France and created bread riots in their wake.  The ruthless French monarchy’s response to these uprisings of the starving French peasants for bread led to the collapse of support for the French monarchy which led inexorably to its complete collapse in 1789.

The story of how the economic and political crisis in France grew into one of the world’s greatest revolutions has received perhaps its greatest literary tribute by Russian anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin in his book “The Great French Revolution”.  This book, which was recommended by none other than Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the even further-reaching Russian Bolshevik Revolution  whose 100th anniversary is being celebrated this year.  It was Lenin’s recommendation that put us on the trail of this book and we are pleased to present a chapter taken from the first volume of “The Great French Revolution” in which Kropotkin shows that the French revolution had roots that went far deeper into the French working class and peasantry than the American Revolution, whose leadership was from the beginning of hostilities dominated by the landed slaveowning aristocracy of the south and the wealthy merchants of the north.  Whenever the spirits of the revolutionary bourgeoisie sagged during the struggle against the counterrevolutionary forces of the deposed aristocracy of France, it was the poor workers – the sans-culottes – and the French peasantry who demanded that the most radical and intransigent revolutionaries be pushed forward into the key positions of leadership of the Revolution.  We hope you enjoy Chapter V – “The Spirit of Revolt: The Riots” from Volume One of Kropotkin’s “The Great French Revolution”.  — IWPCHI

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Excerpt from “The Great French Revolution” by Prince Peter Kropotkin

Chapter V: The Spirit of Revolt – The Riots

As is usual in every new reign, that of Louis XVI. began with some reforms. Two months after his accession Louis XVI. summoned Turgot1 to the ministry, and a month later he appointed him Controller-General of Finance.  He even supported him at first against the violent opposition that Turgot, as an economist, a parsimonious middle-class man and an enemy of the effete aristocracy, was bound to meet with from the Court party.

  Free trade in corn was proclaimed in September 1774,2 and statute labor was abolished in 1776, as well as the old corporations and guilds in the towns, which were no longer of any use except to keep up a kind of industrial autocracy, and by these measures hopes of reform were awakened among the people.  The poor rejoiced to see the breaking down of the toll-gates, which had been put up all over France, and prevented the free circulation of corn, salt and other objects of prime necessity. For them it meant the first breach in the odious privileges of the landowners […]

Finally, in August of 1779, mortmain and personal servitude were suppressed upon the King’s private estates, and the following year it was decided to abolish torture, which was used in the most atrocious forms established by the Ordinance of 1670.4  “Representative Government,” such as was established by the English after their revolution,5 and was advocated in the writings of the contemporary philosophers, also began to be spoken of.  With this end in view, Turgot had even prepared a scheme of provincial assemblies, to be followed later on by representative government for all France in which the propertied classes would have been called upon to constitute a parliament. Louis XVI. shrank from this proposal, and dismissed Turgot; but from that moment all educated France began to talk of a Constitution and national representation.6  However, it was no longer possible to elude the question of national representation, and when Necker7 became minister in July 1777, it came up again for discussion.  Necker, who understood very well the wishes of his master, and tried to bring his autocratic ideas into some accord with the requirements of finance, attempted to manoeuvre by proposing the introduction of provincial assemblies only and relegating the possibility of a national representation to the distant future.  But he, too, was met by a formal refusal on the part of the King. “Would it not be a happy contingency,” wrote the crafty financier, “that your Majesty, having become an intermediary between your estates and your people, your authority should only appear to mark the limits between severity and justice?”  To which Louis replied: “It is of the essence of my authority not to be an intermediary, but to be at the head.” It is well to remember these words in view of the sentimentalities concerning Louis XVI. which have been propagated by historians belonging to the party of reaction. Far from being the careless, inoffensive, good-natured person, interested only in hunting, that they wished to represent him, Louis XVI., for fifteen years, until 1789, managed to resist the necessity, felt and declared, for new political reforms to take the place of royal despotism and the abominations of the old regime.

  The weapon used by Louis XVI., in preference to all others was deceit. Only fear made him yield, and, using always the same weapons, deceit and hypocrisy, he resisted not only up to 1789, but even up to the last moment, to the foot of the scaffold. At any rate, in 1778, at a time when it was already evident to all minds of more or less perspicacity, as it was to Turgot and Necker, that the absolute power of the King had had its day, and that the hour had come for replacing it by some kind of national representation, Louis XVI. could never be
brought to make any but the feeblest concessions. He convened the provincial assemblies of the provinces of Berri and Haute-Guienne (1778 and 1779). But in the face of the opposition shown by the privileged classes, the plan of extending these assemblies to the other provinces was abandoned, and Necker was dismissed in 1781.

  The revolution in America had, meanwhile, helped also to awaken minds,
and to inspire them with a breath of liberty and republican democracy. On July 4, 1776, the English colonies in North America had proclaimed their independence, and the new United States were recognized by France in 1778, which led to a war with England that lasted until 1783.  All historians mention the effect which this war had on men’s minds.  There is, in fact, no doubt that the revolt of the English colonies and the constitution of the United States
exercised a far-reaching influence in France, and helped powerfully in arousing the revolutionary spirit.  We know, too, that the Declaration of Rights, drawn up by the young American States influenced the French revolutionists profoundly, and was taken by them as a model for their declaration.  It might be said also that the war in America, during which France had to build an entire fleet to oppose England’s, completed the financial ruin of the old
regime and
hastened its downfall.  But it is nevertheless certain that this war was also the beginning of those terrible wars which England soon waged against France, and the coalitions which she organised against the Republic.  As soon as England recovered from her defeats and felt that France was weakened by internal struggles, she used every means, open and secret, to bring about the wars which we shall see waged relentlessly from 1793 till 1815.

  All these causes for the Great Revolution8 must be clearly indicated, for like every event of primordial importance, it was the result of many causes, converging at a given moment, and creating the men who in their turn contributed to strengthening the effect of those causes.  But it must be understood that in spite of the events which prepared the Revolution, and in
spite of all the intelligence and ambitions of the middle classes, those ever-prudent people who would have would have gone on a long time waiting for a change if the people had not hastened matters.  The popular revolts, growing and increasing in number and assuming proportions quite unforeseeen, were the new elements which gave the middle class the power of attack which they themselves did not possess.

  The people had patiently endured misery and oppression under Louis XV.,
but as soon as that King died, in 1774, they began to revolt, knowing well that, with a change of masters at the palace, there comes an inevitable slackening of authority.  A continuous series of riots broke out between 1775 and 1777.

  These were the riots of hunger that had been repressed until then only by force. The harvest of 1774 had been bad, and bread was scarce.  Accordingly rioting broke out in April 1775.  At Dijon the people took possession of the homes of the monopolists, destroyed their furniture and smashed up their flour-mills.  It was on this occasion that the governor of the town – one of the superfine gentlemen of whom Taine has written with so much complacence – said to the people those fatal words which were so often to be repeated during the Revolution: “The grass has sprouted, go to the fields and browse on it.”  Auxerre, Amiens, Lille, followed Dijon.  A few days later the “robbers,” for so the majority of historians designate the famished rioters, having assembled at Pontoise, Passy and Saint-Germain with the intention of pillaging the granaries, turned their steps toward Versailles. Louis XVI. wanted to go out on the balcony of the palace to speak to them, to tell them that he would reduce the price of bread; but Turgot, like a true economist, opposed this. The reduction in the price of bread was not made. The “robbers,” in the meantime, entered Paris
and plundered the bakeries, distributing whatever food they could seize among the crowd; but they were dispersed by the troops, and two of the rioters were hanged at the Place de la Greve, and as they were being hanged they cried out that they were dying for the people.  Since that time the legend began to circulate in France about “robbers” overrunning the country – a legend that had such an important effect in 1789, as it furnished the middle classes in the
towns with a pretext for arming themselves.  And from that time also began the placards insulting the King and his ministers which were pasted up at Versailles, containing threats to execute the King the day after his coronation, and even to exterminate the whole of the royal family if bread remained at the same price. Forged governmental edicts, too, began to be circulated throughout the country. One of them asserted that the State Council had reduced the price of wheat
to twelve livres (francs) the measure.

  These riots were of course suppressed, but they had far-reaching consequences. Strife was let loose among the various parties. It rained pamphlets. Some of these accused the minister, while others spoke of a plot of the princes against the King, or made fun of the royal authority.  In short, with men’s minds already in a state of ferment, the popular outbreaks were the sparks which ignited the powder.  Concessions to the people, never dreamed of before, were openly discussed; public works were set on foot; taxes on milling were abolished, and this measure led the people of Rouen to declare that all manorial dues had been abolished, so that they rose in July to protest against ever paying them again.  The malcontents evidently lost no time and profited by the occasion to extend the popular risings.

  We have not the necessary documents for giving a full account of the popular insurrections during the reign of Louis XVI. – the historians did not trouble about them; the archives have not been examined, and it is only by accident that we learn that in such-and-such a place there were “disorders”.  Thus, there were riots of a somewhat serious nature in Paris, after the abolition of the trade-guilds in 17769 – and all over France, in the course of the same year – as a result of the false reports respecting the abolition of all obligations in
the matter of statute labor10 and dues claimed by the landowners.  But, according to the printed documents, it would appear also that there was a decrease in rioting in the years 1777 to 1783, the American war having perhaps something to do with this.

  However, in 1782 and 1783, the riots recommenced and from that time went on increasing until the Revolution. Poitiers revolted in 1782; in 1786 it was Vizille’s turn; from 1783 to 1789 rioting broke out in the Cevennes, the Vivarais and the Gevaudan. The malcontents, who were nicknamed mascarats, wanting
to punish the “practitioners” who sowed dissension among the peasants to incite them to go to law, broke into the law courts and into the houses of the notaries and attorneys and burned all the deeds and contracts. Three of the leaders were hanged, others were sent to penal servitude, but the disorders broke out afresh, as soon as the closing of the
parlements (Courts of Justice) furnished them with a new precedent11.  In 1786 it was Lyons that revolted12.
The silk-weavers went on strike; they were promised an increase of wages, but troops were called out, whereupon there was a fight and three of the leaders were hanged.  From that moment, up to the Revolution, Lyons became a hotbed of revolt, and in 1789 it was the rioters of 1786 who were chosen as electors.

  Sometimes these risings had a religious character; sometimes they were to
resist military enlistment – every levy of soldiers led to a riot, says Turgot; or it might be the salt tax against which the people rebelled, or the exactions of the tithes.  But revolts went on without intermission, and it was in the east, south-east and north-east – future hotbeds of the Revolution – that these revolts broke out in the greatest number.  They went on steadily growing in importance, and at last, in 1788, after the dissolution of the Courts of Justice,
which were called
parlements and were replaced by “Plenary Courts,” insurrections broke out in every part of France.

  It is evident that for the mass of the people there was not much to choose between a parlement and a “Plenary Court.”  If the parlements had refused sometimes to register edicts made by the King and his minister, they had on the other hand displayed no solicitude for the people. But the parlements had
shown opposition to the Court, that was enough; and when emissaries of the middle classes sought popular support for rioting, they were given it willingly, because it was a way of demonstrating against the Court and the rich.

  In the June of 1787 the Paris parlement had made itself very popular by refusing a grant of money to the Court.  The law of the country was that the edicts of the King should be registered by the parlement, and the Paris parlement unhesitatingly registered certain edicts concerning the corn trade, the convocation of provincial assemblies and statute labor.  But it refused to
register the edict which was to establish fresh taxes – a new “territorial subvention,” and a new stamp duty. Upon this the King convoked what was called a “Bed of Justice,” and compelled his edicts to be registered.  The
parlement protested, and so won the sympathy of the middle classes and the people.  There were crowds round the Courts at every sitting; clerks, curious idlers and common men collected there to applaud the members.  To stop this,
the King banished the
parlement to Troyes, and then riotous demonstrations began in Paris.  The popular hatred was then being directed against the princes chiefly, especially against the Duke d’Artois and the Queen, who was nicknamed “Madame Deficit”.

  The Exchequer Court of Paris (Cour des Aides), supported by the popular outburst, as well as by the provincial parlements and the Court of Justice, protested against this act of royal power, and, as the agitation was growing, the King was compelled to recall the exiled parlement.  This was done on September 9, and evoked fresh demonstrations in Paris, during which the minister Calonne13 was burnt in effigy.

  These disturbances were chiefly confined to the lower middle classes.
But in other localities they assumed a more popular character.

  In 1788 insurrections broke out in Brittany.  When the military commander
of Rennes and the Governor of the province went to the Breton
parlement to
announce the edict by which that body was abolished, the whole town turned out immediately.  The crowd insulted and hustled the two functionaries.  The people in their hearts hated the Governor, Bertrand de Moleville, and the middle classes profited by this to spread a rumor that the edict was all owing to the Governor.  “He is a monster that deserves to be strangled,” said one of the leaflets distributed among the crowd.  When he came out of the palace, therefore, they pelted him with stones, and after several attempts some one threw a cord with a slip-knot over him.  Fighting was about to begin – the young men in the crowd breaking through the ranks of soldiers – when an officer threw down his sword and fraternised with the people.

  By degrees troubles of the same kind broke out in several other towns in
Brittany, and the peasants rose in their turn when grain was being shipped at Quimper, Saint-Brieuc, Morlaix, Pont-l’Abbe, Lamballe and other places.  It is interesting to note the active part taken in these disorders by the students at Rennes, who from that time fraternised with the rioters14.  In Dauphine, especially at Grenoble, the insurrection assumed a still more serious character. As soon as the military commander, Clermont-Tonnerre, had promulgated the edict which dissolved the
parlement the people of Grenoble rose.  The tocsin was rung, and the alarm spreading quickly to the neighboring villages, the peasants hastened in crowds to the town.  There was a sanguinary affray and many were killed.  The commander’s guard was helpless and his palace was sacked.  Clermont-Tonnerre, with an axe held over his head, had to revoke the
royal edict.

  It was the people, and chiefly the women, who acted on this occasion.  As
to the members of the
parlement, the people had a good deal of trouble to find them.  They hid themselves, and wrote to Paris that the people had risen against their will, and when the people laid hands on them they were kept
prisoners – their presence giving an air of legality to the insurrection.  The women mounted guard over these arrested members, unwilling to trust them even to the men, lest they should be allowed to escape.

  The middle classes of Grenoble were in a state of terror.  During the night they organized a militia of citizens that took possession of the town gates as well as of some military posts, which they yielded to the troops soon after.  Cannon were trained on the rebels, while the parlement took advantage of the darkness to disappear.  From June 9 to 14 reaction triumphed, but on the 14th news came that there had been a rising at Besancon and that the Swiss soldiers had refused to fire on the people.  Upon this the people’s spirit revived, and it was proposed to convoke the Estates of the province.  But fresh reinforcements of troops having been sent from Paris the disturbance subsided by degrees.  The
agitation, however, kept up chiefly by the women, lasted some time longer15.

  Besides these two risings mentioned by the majority of the historians, many others broke out at the same time in Provence, Languedoc, Rousillon, Bearn, Flanders, Franche-Comte and Burgundy.  Even where no serious riots occurred advantage was taken of the prevailing excitement to keep up the discontent and to make demonstrations.

  At Paris, after the dismissal of the Archbishop of Sens, there were numerous demonstrations.  The Pont Neuf was guarded by troops, and several conflicts occurred between them and the people, of whom the leaders were, as Bertrand de Moleville remarks16, “those who later on took part in all the popular movements of the Revolution.”  Marie-Antoinette’s letter to the Count de Mercy should also be read in this connection.  It is dated August 24, 1788, and in it she tells him of her fears, and announces the retirement of the Archbishop of Sens and the steps she had taken to recall Necker; the effect produced on the Court by those riotous crowds can therefore be understood.  The Queen foresaw that this recall of Necker would lessen the King’s authority; she feared “that they may be compelled to nominate a prime minister,” but “the moment is pressing. It is very essential that Necker should accept.”171819

  Three weeks later, September 14, 1788, when the retirement of Lamoignon
became known, the riotings were renewed.  The mob rushed to set fire to the houses of the two ministers, Lamoignon and Brienne, as well as to that of Dubois.  The troops were called out, and in the Rue Melee and the Rue de Grenelle there was a horrible slaughter of people who could not defend themselves.  Dubois fled from Paris.  “The people themselves would execute justice,” said
Les deux amis de la liberte.  Later, still, in October 1788, when the parlement that had been banished to Troyes was recalled, “the clerks and the
populace” illuminated the Place Dauphine for several evenings in succession. They demanded money from the passers-by to expend on fireworks, and forced gentlemen to alight from their carriages to salute the statue of Henri Quatre20.
Figures representing Calonne, Breteuil21 and the Duchess de Polignac22
were burned.  It was also proposed to burn the Queen in effigy.  These riotous assemblies gradually spread to other quarters, and troops were sent to disperse them.  Blood was shed and many were killed in the Place de la Greve.  Those who were arrested, however, were tried by the
parlement judges, who let them off with light penalties.

  In this way the revolutionary spirit awoke and developed in the van of
the Great Revolution23.  The initiative came from the middle classes certainly – chiefly from the lower middle classes – but, generally speaking, the middle
classes took care not to compromise themselves, and the number of them who opposed the Court, more or less openly, before the convoking of the States-General was very limited.  If there had only been their few attempts at resistance France might have waited many years for the overthrow of royal despotism.  Fortunately a thousand circumstances impelled the masses to revolt.  And in spite of the fact that after every outbreak there were summary hangings, wholesale arrests and even torture for those arrested, the people did revolt, pressed on one side by their desperate misery, and spurred on by the
vague hopes of which the old woman spoke to Arthur Young24.  They rose in numbers against the Governors of provinces, tax-collectors, salt-tax agents and even against the troops, and by so doing completely disorganized the governmental machine.

  From 1788 the peasant risings became so general that it was impossible to provide for the expenses of the State, and Louis XVI., after having refused for fourteen years to convoke the representatives of the nation, lest his Kingly authority should suffer, at last found himself compelled to convoke, first the two Assemblies of Notables, and finally the States-General.

Source:
Prince Peter Kropotkin, “The Great French Revolution” Volume I,
Vanguard Press, May 1929 (2 volumes). Transcription by IWPCHI.

1Anne
Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-1781) – Known colloquially as “Turgot”
– French “progressive” economist and statesman. Appointed
Controller-General of Finance by Louis XVI, he proposed reforms to
the French system of government that would have created a
parliamentary system under a constitutional monarchy – and was
dismissed by Louis XVI as a result. Though he generally supported
its political ideals he unsuccessfully opposed French financial
support for the American revolutionary war “on grounds of
economy”. He ruthlessly suppressed the ‘guerre des farines’
(literally, ‘war of flour’ translated into English as ‘bread
riots’) that took place throughout France in May of 1775 as a
direct result of Turgot’s laissez-faire economic reforms of the
grain markets which led (then and now) to commodities speculators
buying up and hoarding grain in order to drive up prices (Turgot was
thus forced to abandon his own economic principles and restore state
control of the grain market). As an economist he was (is?)
considered to be an adherent to the “physiocratic” school of
economic theory in which agrarian, rural modes of production were
extolled as being morally superior to the pre-capitalist
manufacturing that was beginning to take place in major cities and
towns. This philosophy was perfectly suited to its time and the
predominance of agricultural over pre-industrial production under
late feudal period of European history. The Physiocrats proposed an
early form of laissez-faire economics that was based on rural
agriculture and on the idea that what motivated economic actors to
produce goods was primarily their pursuit of their own personal
interests; they imagined that by simply allowing free trade to exist
a balance would be achieved between the producers and their
exploiters (owners of land and merchants) which would allow everyone
to prosper. This completely discredited idea that free trade leads
to a more perfect and fair balance of trade between workers and
their exploiters is still one of the fundamental – and weakest –
‘principles’ of economics extolled by capitalist economists in
the 21st century. Turgot was one of the co-discoverers of
a fundamental truth of economic theory – the “law of diminishing
returns” – in which “successive applications of the variable
input will cause the product to grow, first at an increasing rate,
later at a diminishing rate until it reaches a maximum.” By
appointing Turgot as Controller -General Louis XVI was signalling
his own openness to progressive reforms of the French monarchical
system. The representatives sent to France by the 13 British
colonies that were to become the United States were so completely
taken in by this apparent openness to modern political and economic
ideas expressed by Louis XVI that they were tricked into believing
that he was a supporter of the revolutionary political ideals
espoused by the American revolutionaries of the late 1700s (which he
most definitely was not, as he would prove by his dismissal of
Turgot for his promotion of political ideas that ran parallel to
those of the leading American revolutionary political theorists).
[Note by IWPCHI. Sources: Wikipedia articles on “Anne Robert
Jacques Turgot”, “Physiocrats”, “Jacques Necker” and
“Flour War”.]

2Before
that the farmer could not sell his corn for three months after the
harvest, the lord of the manor alone being entitled to do that. It
was one of the feudal privileges, which enabled the lord to sell it
at a high price.

3Mortmain
(literally meaning ‘dead hand’) was a means by which landowners
could avoid honoring any feudal duties he was obligated to pay to
the King, by donating land to the Church and then recovering use of
the land by becoming a tenant of the Church. The monarchy was
thereby denied any income or tribute they would have been entitled
to had the land remained in private hands. Also, once land was
“donated” to the Church, it would remain in Church hands
forever. This practise resulted in the loss of a tremendous amount
of income and personal service due to the monarchy. It also over
time threatened to tremendously increase the wealth in land and
therefore the balance of power between the “three estates” that
existed in medieval European feudal society: mortmain benefitted the
ecclesiastical order in relation to the nobility and the peasantry.
– IWPCHI]

4Statute
of August 24, 1780. Breaking on the wheel existed still in 1785. The
parliaments, in spite of the Voltaireianism, and the general
refinement in the conception of life, enthusiastically defended the
use of torture, which was abolished definitely only by the National
Assembly. It is interesting to find (E. Seligman, La
justice en France pendant la Revolution,
p.
97) that Brissot, Marat and Robespierre by their writings
contributed to the agitation for the reform of the penal code.

5Kropotkin
refers to England’s anti-Catholic “Glorious Revolution” of
1688. [Note by IWPCHI]

6The
arguments upon which Louis XVI. took his stand are of the highest
interest. I sum them up here according to E. Samichon’s Les
Reformes sous Louis XVI.: assemblees provinciales et parlements.
The
King found Turgot’s schemes
dangerous,
and wrote: “Though coming from a man who has good ideas, his
constitution would overthrow the existing state.” And again,
further on: “The system of a rent-paying electorate would tend to
make malcontents of the non-propertied classes, and if these were
allowed to assemble they would form a hot-bed of disorder. … The
transition from the abolished system to the system M. Turgot now
proposes ought to be considered: we see well enough what is, but
only in our thoughts do we see what does not yet exist,
and
we must not make dangerous experiments if we do not see where they
will end.” Vide
also,
in Samichon’s Appendix A, the very interesting list of the chief
laws under Louis XVI. between 1774 and 1789.

7Jacques
Necker (1732- 1804) Swiss banker who became a French statesman and
finance minister for Louis XVI.

8N.B.:
Kropotkin refers here, of course to the Great French Revolution of
1789 which is the subject of this book. – IWPCHI

9This
cursory mention by Kropotkin of an event that was a serious blow
against the feudal version of the trade union movement and which
must have given an enormous impetus to petit-bourgeois and
proletarian support for political ideas involving the curtailing of
the power of the absolute monarchy is itself worthy of a book. If
you know of any on the subject please send the information to us. –
IWPCHI

10Statute
labor was (and is) compulsory unpaid labor required by the state or
(in feudal Europe, as in this example) by the landlord from
lower-class citizens (particularly from peasants). It exists in the
US today in an only slightly attenuated form as “workfare” and
prison labor programs in which refusal to perform the work required
can result in total loss of social benefits and/or a prison term or
(for people already imprisoned) an extension of their prison
sentence. – IWPCHI

11C.
de Vic and J. de Vaisette, Histoire generale du Languedoc,
continued by du Mege, 10 vols., 1840-1846

12Chassin,
Genie de la Revolution.

13Charles
Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne (1734-1802) Born into an upper-class
family, he was a lawyer considered to be “a man with notable
business abilities and an entrepreneurial spirit, while generally
unscrupulous in his political actions.” Louis XVI appointed him to
be “Controller-General of Finances” in the autumn of 1783 in
order to deal with the deteriorating financial crisis his monarchy
was faced with as a result of Louis’ monumental waste of funds on
luxurious living as well as rapidly mounting costs relating to the
war with England and with the rapidly deteriorating internal
political situation sweeping France. Almost every policy instituted
or attempted to be instituted by Calonne exacerbated the tensions
between the citizens of France and the monarchy. He was dismissed by
Louis in 1787 and exiled to Lorraine – and later on he exiled
himself to France’s bitter enemy Great Britain. He tried to make a
political comeback with the convocation of the Estates-General in
1789 but was refused entry to France. After the Revolution Calonne
joined the monarchist counterrevolutionaries assembling at Coblenz;
when they were defeated by the revolutionary French army under
Napoleon he returned to Great Britain. In 1802 his petition for
permission to return to France was granted by Napoleon; he died in
France a month after his return. – Note by IWPCHI Source: Wikipedia
article “Charles Alexandre de Calonne”

14Du
Chatelier, Histoire de la Revolution dans les departements de
l’ancienne Bretagne,
6
vols., 1836: vol. Ii pp. 60-70, 161, &c.

15Vic
and Vaissete, vol. x. p. 637.

16Vic
and Vaissete, p.136.

17J.
Feuillet de Conches, Lettres de Louis XVI., Marie-Antoinette
at Madame Elizabeth (Paris,
1864), vol. I. pp. 214-216:
The
Abbe has
written to you this evening, sir, and has notified my wish to you,”
wrote the Queen. “I think more than ever that the moment is
pressing, and that it is very essential that he (Necker) should
accept. The King fully agrees with me, and has just brought me a
paper with his own hand containing his ideas, of which I send you a
copy.” The next day she wrote again: “We must no longer
hesitate. If he can get to work tomorrow all the better. It is most
urgent. I fear that we may be compelled to nominate a prime
minister.”

18Many
of Marie-Antoinette’s letters sent during the revolutionary

period
were sent with enciphered text written in white ink; it is not known
if this technique was used in this particular letter, but at least
one of her letters to de Mercy were enciphered and written in this
type of invisible ink (Source:

cryptiana.web.fc2.com/code/fersen.htm.
Note by IWPCHI.)

19Necker
was recalled to the post of Controller-General of Finance on 25
August 1788. He was not appointed as Prime Minister until 16 July
1789 – two days after the storming of the Bastille. (Note by
IWPCHI sourced from Wikipedia article “Jacques Necker”.)

20Henri
Quatre – King Henry IV of France (1553-1610; ruled from 1589-1610;
assassinated by fanatic Catholic Francois Ravaillac . Known as
“Henry of Navarre” and “Good King Henry” he was fondly
remembered by the workers and peasants of France for his relatively
friendly attitude towards the poor. He is credited with the
statement “If God keeps me, I will make sure that no peasant in my
realm will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot on Sunday!”
The statue in Kropotkin’s reference to Henri Quatre was erected by
Henry IV and placed on the Pont-Neuf, which he also built, and which
stands in Paris to this day. – Note by IWPCHI Source: Wikipedia
article “Henry IV of France”.

21Louis
Auguste Le Tonnelier de Breteuil (1730-1807) Baron de Breteuil – a
French aristocrat, diplomat, statesman and politician. At the time
this incident occurred Breteuil was the Secretary of State of the
Maison du Roi. He was serving the King and Queen Marie-Antoinette in
this role when the sordid tale known as “The Affair of the
Necklace” came to light. Popular support for the monarchy in
general and for Marie-Antoinette in particular was severely damaged
by the “Affair”; Breteuil’s defense of Marie-Antoinette in the
affair made him very unpopular. He was appointed to succeed Jacques
Necker as Prime Minister on 12 July 1789 – which was one of the
events that led to the storming of the Bastille prison just two days
later. After the Revolution, many aristocrats fled France one step
ahead of the executioner; Breteuil was appointed by King Louis XVI
(at the request of Marie) to be their Prime Minister-in-exile while
they were being held prisoners in France by the revolutionaries.
Breteuil was responsible for the plan for the failed escape of the
King and Queen from France in 1791. After the executions of Louis
and Marie and the death of the last heir to the Bourbon throne
Breteuil retired to a location near Hamburg. He was allowed by
Napoleon I to return to France in 1802; he died in France in 1807.
Note by IWPCHI sourced from Wikipedia article “Louis Auguste Le
Tonnelier de Breteuil”.

22Yolande
Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac (1749-1783)
Wikipedia describes her as being of the “ultra-monarchist”
faction of the French nobility. Stunningly beautiful in her
portraits, she was hated by the poor of France for her extravagant
lifestyle and for her alleged lesbian relationship with
Marie-Antoinette (which was reportedly not true). She was hated by
many in the aristocracy for the favoritism shown to her and her
family by the King and Queen which was seen as breaching social
etiquette of the time; it was widely resented that she obtained an
appointment as “Governess of the Children of France” which gave
her the important responsibility to oversee the education and
general upbringing of the children of the King and Queen. She and
her family went into exile in Switzerland shortly after the storming
of the Bastille prison. She died in Austria shortly after the
execution of Marie Antoinette in December of 1793.

23For
fuller information, see Felix Roquain, L’esprit revolutionnaire
avant la Revolution.

24The
reference is to a story Kropotkin relates in Chapter III of Vol. I
of this book (p.11). It comes from Arthur Young’s Travels in
France
which
relate anecdotes from a trip through France which Young undertook
shortly before the French Revolution got underway. “’Something
has to be done by some great folk for such poor ones’” Young
quotes the old woman as saying in reference to the ruling
aristocracy and monarchy of France. “She did not know who or how;
‘but God send us better’”.