1920s >> 1929 >> no-298-june-1929

Communist Rioting

 The Socialist Party takes its stand on the policy so clearly stated and defended by Marx and Engels that the working class must, as a preliminary to the establishment of Socialism, gain control of the political machinery of society. They can do this in the advanced Capitalist countries through political organisation and the use of the vote; the working class possessing, as they do, the overwhelming majority of votes. The Communists reject this theory of Marx founded on the lessons of everyday experience, and advocate the fundamentally different and fundamentally unsound policy of trying to create a working class armed force with which an attempt is to be made to fight and overthrow the armed forces of the Capitalist state. They reject the possibility of gaining control of the political machinery and the existing armed forces, and base their hopes instead on barricades and street fighting. Bucharin, speaking for the Executive at the 1928 Congress in Moscow of the Third International, made no attempt to hide this aim of the Communists. The following extract from his speech is taken from a report in the Communist publication “International Press Correspondence” (July 30th, 1928) :—

“Mass actions must be regarded as one of the best means in our struggle. Our tactics must be to mobilise the masses, to become masters of the streets, to attack again and again the law and order of the bourgeois State and to smash it, to capture the street by revolutionary means, in the strict sense of the word, and then to go further. Only on the basis of a whole series of such events and on the basis of the development of these events—mass actions, etc. —only through such a process can we prepare ourselves for fiercer and more stubborn mass struggles on a larger scale.”


On the instructions of the Third International the German Communists tried out this policy on May Day. May Day street demonstrations by every party had been prohibited by the Berlin Police Authorities because of the alleged danger of conflict between rival organisations. The Communists announced in advance their intention of defying the prohibition. According to a report published in the “Daily Herald” (May 1st) and received from German Labour Party sources, the Executive Committee of the German Communist Party were prepared for 200 deaths, but nevertheless gave instructions for demonstrations to be held at all costs. The demonstrations ended in an attempt by the Communists to hold two Berlin working class districts (Wedding and Neukoln) against the police. Barricades were thrown up consisting of tree trunks, paving stones, overturned carts, etc., and Communist snipers are reported to have fired on the police from houses in these areas. Brutal methods were used by the police. In all 23 people were killed and many others wounded before the authorities finally suppressed the demonstrators. The following summary of this criminal action of the Communists, taken from the “Manchester Guardian,” is based on the first hand reports of their representative in Berlin :—

“Many of the casualties were youthful Communists, most of them were inoffensive passers- by, only a few were policemen—it does not seem that one policeman was killed. Nearly all t he execution was done by police rifles and machine-guns. The Communist rioters were poorly armed —they do not seem to have had more than a few revolvers—nor do they themselves seem to have been very numerous. The police showed some restraint at first, but then fell upon their opponents with great savagery, shooting and bludgeoning rioters and casual passers-by alike.” (“Manchester Guardian,” May 7th.)

Only one policeman was injured in the actual fighting on May Day, and the following days, and he shot himself by accident. (“Daily Telegraph,” 8th May.)


This incident only serves once more to indicate the futility of the whole Communist theory of armed revolt. The Capitalist class, by their control of the State machinery, control powerful armed forces possessing all the latest and most potent weapons of destruction. In addition they can and do prevent the formation of any serious rival force. Even if the workers had any means of purchasing expensive modern weapons they would have no means of training themselves to use them. The “Guardian” points out how these hare-brained “revolutionaries” sent their boy dupes into action against a semi-military police force, armed only with a few revolvers. The “Guardian” is not quite accurate. According to photographs published in the London press, they also had at least one machine gun—a dummy ! With it they attempted to scare off the police. A harassed policeman is certainly likely to lie low when he sees something which looks like a machine gun. But these Communist children had apparently overlooked the very pertinent fact that to a fleet of tanks it is a question of supreme indifference whether your machine gun is a dummy or not. The authorities brought out their tanks and their armoured aeroplanes, with troops in reserve, and the issue was never in doubt. Even if the Communists could have resisted for a few days they never explained, and do not appear to have considered, what they were going to do with Wedding and Neukoln after they had demonstrated their ability, temporarily, to hold them against the police.


Even the temporary success of such a move depends on a circumstance which is so unlikely as to be well nigh impossible of achievement, that is to keep the plans from the police. It is common knowledge that semi-secret organisations advocating violence as does the Communist Party are honeycombed with police agents and informers.

In Paris, also, May Day demonstrations were forbidden, and there also the Communists threatened to defy the prohibition. The police accordingly rounded up the leaders just prior to May Day and kept a large number under preventive detention. This practice serves a twofold purpose. It deprives the rank and file of their leadership and at the same time enables the police to save their spies from danger or exposure by keeping them, with other prisoners, safely under lock and key.

How prevalent spying is and how difficult to detect is shown by the case of “John Vidor,” author of “Spying in Russia.” This person (the name is apparently an assumed one) claims that he not only wormed his way into the Communist movement, but got himself sent to Russia as a member of the “Workers’ Delegation,” which went there in 1927. (See “Daily Telegraph,” 3rd May.)

The “Morning Post” periodically prints scare articles written by one of its informers who apparently holds some minor official position in the British Communist Party.


History knows many instances of romantic hot-heads vainly trying to overthrow powerful Governments without considering the hopelessness of the odds against them, being, in fact, more interested in heroics and martyrdom than anything else. But it has remained for the modern Communist movement to reduce this tactic to its last futility. Ever since the formation of the Communist Parties we have seen them denouncing the alleged Labour Parties as being in fact parties of Capitalism. We have also seen them voting these parties into control of the political machinery and the armed forces of the State. Finally, having placed in the hands of Capitalist parties the power to build up armed forces for the defence of Capitalism, they then commit the further criminal folly of sending boys “armed” with revolvers and dummy machine guns against the tanks and battleplanes controlled by those whom they have voted into power. The Communists, in pursuing this policy, are a danger only to themselves and to the working class.


(Socialist Standard, June 1929)

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