1920s >> 1926 >> no-259-march-1926

Is Martyrdom the Test of Truth?

Amongst the ideas which pass for argument with the Communists is the notion that their party is right because their leaders are imprisoned.

If this idea was sound, we should follow the crowd of various speakers and writers who have suffered imprisonment. Pacifists and Suffragettes, Anarchists and Syndicalists, and Reformers of every shade who at one time or another have been imprisoned.

If this policy were correct, the terrorists, nihilists, Social Revolutionaries, Menshevists, are the best parties to follow because they have suffered imprisonment and death in larger numbers than the Bolsheviks. In fact, the opponents of Lenin in Russia used that very argument. They claimed their parties had suffered untold tortures and exile under Czarism and therefore claimed they were most feared by the despots. Look again at the Anarchists and other propagandists of deed. Have they not been hounded and imprisoned the world over, from Kropotkin to Emma Goldman? Why not support them on that account ? The Industrial Workers of the World in the United States have been jailed and brutally beaten in great numbers. Did that stop the Communist International from declaring them reactionary? Did it stop the Communists in America opposing them outside and breaking them up from within?

This line of shallow reasoning so common with Communists now, is an example of their general shallowness. One minute they want to be with the masses, the next minute they “glory” in being picked out from among them and imprisoned.

But their cry of martyrdom is a thin cry. Their policy naturally invited prosecution in the same way as the reactionary policy of sabotage advocacy did years ago. It was likely to be a nuisance to the Capitalists or at least some Capitalists thought so.

The Communists differed in no way from similar elements in trying to get off. From an array of counsel to pleading they were out for higher wages, shorter hours, etc., and to seeking to put their theses in the background—these attempts to escape imprisonment take the edge off their cry of martyrdom.

It is not for us, however, to let the Capitalists choose our party for us. It is for us to examine policies and judge whether such policies will be effective for emancipation. We do not let the brutality of the Capitalists blind us to the futility of the C.P.