1930s >> 1934 >> no-360-august-1934

Suicidal Glory

The Labour Monthly, one of the organs of the Communist Party, has secured (June issue) Georgi Dimitrov as one of its contributors. He writes a “Letter to the Austrian Workers,” with the intention of drawing from the recent commotions in Vienna and elsewhere “historical lessons . . .  for the workers of all capitalist countries.”

The March issue of the Socialist Standard (“Austrian Workers’ Tragic Heroism“) dealt with the same topic with a similar intention; incidentally its audience of “workers” would include those of the State—Russia—that is issuing 7 per cent. Bonds, employing the most up-to-date methods of extracting the last ounce of work in its industrial enterprises, vigorously suppressing freedom of speech, and “dictating” by a comparatively small clique to a huge mass of unconvinced peasants and others who form the main bulk of the U.S.S.R.

Dimitrov, in the style peculiar to the Communist Party—a derivation from the bourgeois heroics of the French Revolution period—says: “The U.S.S.R. stands firm like a rock . . . the power of the working-class has been established. . . .” Instead of which, as the March Socialist Standard reminds us: “In spite of the Russian Governments pose that it is the defender of the working class everywhere, it appears to have maintained an attitude of correct diplomatic neutrality.”

Let us be clear upon one point: The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its allied organisations in the Dominions and the U.S.A. yield to none in admiration of courageous resistance on the part of the working class at all times and in all places. “We were moved to admiration by the heroic resistance of the Austrian workers . . . their conduct is a proof that the working class can produce men as tenacious and possessed of as much endurance and integrity as anything the ruling class can show.*’ (March Socialist Standard.)

But, the key-word to the Socialist Party’s position on this question is contained in the heading of the article referred to: “Austrian Workers’ Tragic Heroism.”

And here emerges our unbridgable difference with Dimitrov—whose personal qualities the S.P. would be the last to belittle; his courageous avowal of political intent under appalling circumstances compare very favourably with the pettifogging lines of defence adopted by members of the English Communist Party when before the representatives of British law and order, under distinctly less harassing conditions.

Dimitrov holds, with the S.P.G.B., that the struggle was tragic, but why? Because “it was not the armed struggle of the Austrian working class that was a mistake. The mistake was that the struggle was not organised and LED in a revolutionary Bolshevist way.”

“Trust your leaders.” . . . History stands aghast, while the crucified working class, gazing into the intense inane, utters its despairing cry, “My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” And from Communist and Labour Party circles a voice replies, “What we want is honest leadership.”

Turn here to our Declaration of Principles: “ EMANCIPATION MUST BE THE WORK OF THE WORKING CLASS ITSELF.”

Dimitrov charges the Social Democrats with incompetence and treachery. The Socialist Party of Great Britain through thirty years has adduced proof after proof of the utter inability of any party not broad-based upon Socialist UNDERSTANDING to compass emancipation.

The Social Democrats of Austria, the Communist Party of this country, ALL parties outside the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its allied parties, are out for REFORM. The question of ”treachery” is irrelevant. The March article in the Socialist Standard summarised the situation: —”The Social Democrats had to tell their followers that housing schemes and various other little gains were vital inroads into capitalism, and must be defended at all costs. Consequently, when the Government finally made a frontal attack on the Vienna Council, the Social Democrats had either to fight or else admit that these things were not worth fighting for.”

A real, practical and immediate danger lurks under the froth and scum of the anarchist section of reform (mainly represented by the C.P. and I.L.P.). Whether temporarily posturing as a “United Front,” or vulgarly abusing each other, they are directly responsible for urging ill-fed and unarmed workers to pit themselves against the batons of the police and the machine guns of the military. We are living on the edge of desperate happenings. Vienna can be re-enacted here. (Good old George, dear old Christian George Lansbury, has planned under “Labour” Government to “protect public services.” See Clarion, May 5th, this year, so that the Labour Party can hardly be charged with “treachery” if the revered “leader” wields the stick heavily.) What hope can the English section of the Communist Party hold out that “the gigantic stronghold of the working class of the world” (Dimitrov) will aid the proletariat in insurrection ?

Fellow workers, is it “worth while for a workers’ movement to go down in suicidal glory for the sake of the nominal control of part of the machinery of local government ?”

With an alleged “Socialist” L.C.C. on the Embankment, and an organisation (relying in the long run upon secret methods) fishing in troubled waters, the question may not be so remote or academic as it sounds at first.

Augustus Snellgrove